Most growers have already started preparing for the 2019 harvest. With the late planting and flooding this spring and summer, as well as lower crop prices, it is more important than ever to make sure the combine is working as well as possible so grain loss can be minimized.

Check your concave and cylinder bars/rotor. Replace any cylinder bars that show excessive wear or damage. Cylinder bars should be replaced in pairs – always replace the one on the opposite side of the cylinder at the same time. This keeps the cylinder balanced. Make sure the spacing between the bars and the concave is even from side to side.

Inspect the fans. A damaged fan can reduce the amount of air you think is flowing through the

chaffer and sieve. Adjust the airflow to optimize the cleaning of the grain. As conditions change throughout the day, check your fan. As the crops dry in the afternoon you may need to reduce the airflow to prevent grain from going over the sieve and onto the ground.

Check the straw walkers, chaffers and sieves for any damage. A damaged section can greatly reduce the threshing ability of the combine. Make sure the chaffers are properly adjusted. Like the fans, these should be adjusted as the conditions change to maximize combine performance.

A misaligned or damaged auger can quickly wear out bearings as well as damage the crop. Check for any notches in the flighting or holes in the auger beds.

Service your grain trucks. One of the major bottlenecks is getting the grain moved away from the combine and into bins or the grain elevator. Time lost to replacing a bad tire, engine problems or other mechanical issues can significantly slow harvest.

It is easier to repair/replace these items before harvest than during harvest.

Harvest is also a very dangerous time of year for farmers and their employees. According to the National Safety Council 960 people died in 2009 from injuries they received while working on U.S. farms and ranches. Another 160,000 suffered disabling injuries. The nation’s agricultural industry was second only to mining in terms of deaths per 100,000 workers in 2009.

Many of these incidents occur during the harvest season as farmers work long hours to harvest their crops. Most harvest related incidents are preventable if a few simple guidelines are followed.

Watch out overhead. Today’s combines and grain wagons are much larger than just 10 years ago. It is very easy to get an unloading auger caught on an overhead power line with generally drastic results.

Studies show that approximately one out of three injuries caused by touching a high voltage line results in death.

Get plenty of rest during these long days. Exhaustion and the related distraction is one of the largest contributors to accidents during the harvest season.

Carry a cell phone or have a radio for communication. In case of an accident, you will be able to alert someone of the situation. You should also always let someone know where you will be working each day

and about what time you should finish. This can help to alert them if a problem does occur.

Keep all safety equipment in place. Combines are equipped with many safety shields and devices.

These are there to protect the operator and others around them from injury. You should also have a fire extinguisher aboard in case of a fire.

Never attempt to clear a plugged header or service the combine when the engine is running. These operations generally involve the removal of safety shields or getting close to the operating mechanisms of the equipment. These are very hazardous areas, which is why the manufacturer shields them. Working in these areas with the shields removed can very easily result in injury.

Make sure all warning lights are working on any equipment that is used on public highways. Many motorists are not used to sharing the road with such large, slow-moving equipment. Make sure other motorists can see you well in advance by using your warning flashers.

Never carry riders on tractors or combines. The exception is those machines that have jump seats for a second occupant. Unless your equipment has this feature, riders are a hazard. They can either interfere with the driver’s safe operation of the equipment or they can fall off and become injured. Coupled with the fatigue farmers generally feel this time of year, a rider in the way during a crisis will cause problems.

Jim Crawford is a field specialist in agricultural engineering.