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How to increase air cart capacity on a budget

Pairing two smaller carts together gave this Alberta farmer a significant increase in seeding efficiency without a major investment in new equipment

In the winter of 2010-11 I spent some time thinking about how to improve seeding efficiency. We had been direct seeding and top dressing after with our own floater truck. But I wanted to change to a one-pass system to cut down on man hours, machinery and maintenance. To do that I needed an air cart with enough compartments to hold all the different products we store on the farm.

I also wanted to cut down on the number of times we stop to refill the drill so I could seed more acres in a day. That would allow us to get by with one tender-truck driver and one operator in the air drill. I was also not interested in spending a lot of money to buy a brand new, large-capacity air cart. At that time the largest on the market was 700 bushels.

I managed to achieve all those goals by purchasing a used 6550 Bourgault air cart at an auction and pairing it with my existing Bourgault 5350. We now refer to these two as our “Super 900” air cart, which is hitched behind my 75-foot Bourgault 3310 air drill.

The “Super 900” has been in use for two seeding seasons, and it’s provided many advantages over the previous small-capacity, single-cart arrangement.

First, of course, is the sheer volume of product we can carry; the 6550 alone carries 550 bushels. We use this tank for our phosphorus and potassium blend, canola seed, and granular sulphur.

The 5350 carries 350 bushels of straight urea. When we seed cereals, the seed goes into the compartment that carries the sulphur and that gives us 290 bushels of cereal seed. We now have a total of seven metering augers, which gives us lots of flexibility when seeding to change products between compartments; and we’ve greatly increased the number of acres seeded between fills. We now typically cover 120 to 130 acres.

In the field

Because the two carts follow each other, we can mix products from the lead and rear cart, sending them into the same air stream to the drill. This can only be done when both carts follow each other.

The process of hooking them together and making it all work was really quite simple. First, we removed the High output fans from the 6550. We then manufactured a hitch and attached it to the existing connecting points on the rear of the 6550. We then hooked the 5350 behind it.

The original fans on the 5350 were removed and the high output fans from the 6550 were installed in their place. Next, we attached the two main air delivery tubes together. Bourgault uses two air tubes for main delivery: one line for the mid row banders and one for the seed openers. Hydraulic lines were rerouted to drive the fans in their new location on the 5350.

I ordered a new wiring harness that just lays across the tillage tool. It is routed across the 6550 to power the rear cart. Basically, it just required plugging in connectors and rerouting; that’s it.

In my tractor I have an X20 monitor for the 6550, and a 491 monitor for the 5350. We had to disable the fan speed warning alarm in the X20 so it wasn’t constantly ringing now that there are no fans on the 6550.

Electronically, the carts operate as two separate units, and everything functions as before, with the exception of the fan speed warning. But all hydraulic functions — calibrating, fill augers and fans — perform as if you were just pulling one cart.

This unit handles extremely well and tracks one behind the other, even in the corners. For 2013 I plan on installing a camera on the rear cart to let me see any traffic following behind, which will improve transport safety.

This is a much better seeding system than I had before, and it has surpassed all of my expectations when it comes to seeding efficiency and ease of operation. It has also provided a cost saving for my farm.

Editors note — Nelles wrote to us about his on-farm seeding system innovation. If you’ve been creative in developing a mechanical solution to increase efficiency or you just keep an older machine operating, let us know and we may feature your machine in a future issue of Grainews. Just send an email to Scott Garvey. †

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