Daily Preharvest Maintenance Checks
Daily maintenance of stripper harvesters is critical to ensuring worker safety, maintaining productivity, and prolonging machine life. The following are basic daily critical checkpoints to address before operation:
- Clean seed cotton from deck area, engine compartment, alternator screens, radiator coils, fan shroud, etc.
- Clean cotton buildup from finger grates, basket screens, and sensors in basket.
- Check to make sure the direction vane at the top of the conveying duct is set as desired to direct cotton either into the field cleaner or into the basket, depending on desired operation.
- Check field cleaner for damaged saws, residue buildup on saws, loose or damaged grid bars, loose belts, buildup of large debris, etc.
- Lubricate basket hydraulic cylinder pivots, basket rock shaft pivots, and basket vane pivot points.
- Fill fuel tank and inspect tires for proper pressure and damage.
- Check engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and coolant levels.
- Check row units for plugged grate panels, plant stalks, excessively worn or damaged bats and brushes, worn bearings and gears, etc.
- Lubricate steering axle pivot points and ball joints.
- Follow all recommended maintenance procedures according to manufacturersuggested intervals in the machine operator’s manual.
After you complete daily pre-operation maintenance and checks, the machine is almost ready for field use. Before entering the field for harvest, properly warm up the machine and power up the field cleaner, fan, and row-unit drive systems in sequence. With the engine at low idle speed, engage the field cleaner, followed by the main fan, and then the row-unit drive. Initiating operation in this sequence allows for material remaining in the system to pass through without causing a choke downstream.
Before entering the crop rows, lower the row units and header into proper position for harvest. Adjust the stripper header level with the ground; row units should float approximately 1-2 inches above the surface. As the machine enters the field, closely monitor your speed to prevent overloading the header cross auger and field cleaner. Match travel speed to machine capacity, considering the number of rows harvested per pass, yield, and level of defoliation.
Pay close attention to field conditions, and avoid obstacles by raising row units and maneuvering around to prevent row-unit chokes and machine damage. Stripper row units are subject to periodic plugging due to rank crop conditions, weed and disease pressure, or the presence of field debris (such as stumps and rocks). Some modern stripper headers are equipped with reversing circuits that allow stripping rolls and augers to rotate in reverse to help clear minor chokes. Make sure that the row units have come to a complete stop before engaging the reversing circuit to prevent damage to the header or row units.
Clearing a Choke
Some situations will require several cycles of engaging the row units in the forward and then the reverse direction to clear a choke. If you cannot clear a choke quickly by reversing the row-unit drive, you must manually remove the obstruction before harvest can continue. Before leaving the cab to clear the obstruction, you must disengage the row units, fan, and field cleaner, and then shut off the engine to prevent serious injury or death. Follow all recommended safety precautions listed in the machine operator’s manual. Remove debris from the field after you clear it out of the row units. If any seed cotton has touched the ground, do not put it with other harvested cotton. It may be contaminated.
Unloading the Basket
Carefully unload the harvester basket into a boll buggy or module builder to prevent worker injury or machine damage. Make sure that the unloading area is clear of overhead obstructions (such as power lines) before unloading. Make sure that the stripper harvester is oriented appropriately relative to the boll buggy or module builder to allow the harvester to unload without spilling seed cotton onto the ground. It may not be possible to unload a stripper harvester with a wide header configuration (i.e., 6 or 8 rows wide) directly into a module builder.
Field efficiency is maximized when the harvester unloads without leaving the rows being harvested. It is often easier to maneuver a boll buggy into position than to move a harvester off the rows and into position. Be careful when maneuvering boll buggies in the field (especially near harvesters with wide headers) to allow for adequate forward, side, and rear clearance to avoid damaging the harvester or support equipment.
Harvesters are top-heavy and should be maneuvered slowly when full and unloaded on flat ground. Windy conditions are common in stripper-harvested areas and can cause harvesting equipment to roll over when unloading. Always pay close attention to wind direction when unloading in windy conditions and orient machines for unloading so that the basket rotates into the wind.
The following steps should be taken to properly shut down stripper harvesters at the end of each day:
- Bring the machine to a complete stop, and place the hydrostatic lever in the park position.
- Apply the parking brake.
- Disengage stripping units.
- Lower stripping units and header onto the ground.
- Disengage the fan.
- Disengage the field cleaner.
- Idle the engine for several minutes to cool the turbo-charger before turning ignition switch off.