They remove crops from fields and separate grain from other material to be spread back in the field. However, combines retain a significant amount of material following the harvest of just one field.

“They can have as much as 150 pounds of biomaterial, including chaff, grain and the seed of weeds such as Palmer amaranth,” cautions Tom Peters, North Dakota State University Extension sugarbeet agronomist and weed expert. “This material may remain in tight spaces or in obvious places, such as the gathering head and grain tank.”

Angie Johnson, NDSU Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Steele County, urges producers to be especially on the lookout for weeds and pests brought in by equipment from out of state.

During harvest in North Dakota, custom combining units harvest a percentage of crops. Some custom combining units are local, while other units may come from other states, such as Kansas or Nebraska. As custom combining crews move their way into North Dakota for harvest, they can pick up weed seeds and deposit the seeds onto fields here. This is where a problem can blow up quite quickly, especially with a new weed such as Palmar amaranth.

Planting and tillage equipment and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) used in the field also can accumulate mud and debris and move pathogen-infested soil and weed seed from contaminated to clean fields.

While removing all debris isn’t possible, taking the time to clean equipment between fields can reduce the movement of weed seed and other material from one field to another significantly, according to Johnson.

“But before you start cleaning your combine and other farm equipment, take time to put on the proper personal protective equipment (PPE),” she advises.

PPE includes hearing protection, a mask, a long-sleeved shirt and pants, closed-toed shoes, safety glasses and gloves.

Also always shut the machine off when working in direct contact with moving parts, such as when needing to unclog the machine.

Click here for more information about equipment clean out.

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Northern Plains Potato Growers Association

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