Scaling up your harvest operations with a grain cart

By: Staff 07/11/2010 @ 11:00pm

Grain carts add greatly to harvest productivity by unloading combines on the go and quickly loading trucks.  The combine stays on the job and the truck stays out of the soft field.  Grain carts range in capacity from 400 to about 1400 bushel so a truck can be loaded with one properly sized cart and get on its way.  In a way, a properly sized grain cart acts like a rolling grain bin to keep the combine empty and the truck full and both operating.

Early carts of about 500 bushel often had a gravity fed side-mounted, fixed auger.  Today's carts offer a variety of auger types and positions.  Corner augers give good unloading visibility.  Adding a floor auger on long carts speeds unloading time.  Unloading augers on big carts fold to reduce the width and overhanging weight of the auger in field and transport operations.  A number of major and short line manufacturers offer grain carts of various sizes and configurations.

Grain carts can place extreme weight on a small footprint and are a major cause of soil compaction.  According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, an 875 bushel grain cart with a single axle can render 6" of Portland cement concrete unstable in 30 passes.  Imagine what it can do to soil compaction.  Overinflating tires add considerably to compaction, so it is critical to properly air the tires.  Tracks are better than single tires but not necessarily better than duals, according to the University of Minnesota.  Grain carts are worse than combines for causing soil compaction.

Putting a 1,000 bushel grain cart in operation may cost well over $100,000, including over $40,000 for the cart and adding the cost of a 225 hp tractor.  The University of Illinois provides a useful harvest cost breakdown at the link below.

As farm fields and combines get larger, the benefit of grain carts becomes more obvious.   Managing soil compaction is an important aspect of grain cart operation to avoid yield losses.

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