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Articles from 1999 In September


Smart charger for respirator batteries >By For the Farm

The new Smart Charger charges up to 10 different batteries at one time for Hornell's Speedglas Fresh-air II respirators. The unit charges batteries in about 6 hrs. and can be left plugged in over a few days. Charges last up to 8 hrs. Contact Hornell Speedglas Inc., Dept. FIN, 2374 Edison Blvd., Twinsburg, OH 44087, 800/628-9218, www.speedglas.com.

Transgenics prevail

About 71percent of the world's crops are planted with herbicide-resistant varieties, according to Steve Pueppke, University of Illinois associate dean for research. In spite of growing concerns from Europeans, farmers in the U.S. and other countries continue to embrace biotechnology in their crops.

And the love affair with these crops will continue. "In the U.S., the evolution from standard to transgenic soybeans will be completed in three to five years," Pueppke suggests. "USDA researchers predict all corn and soybean crops will be genetically modified in the next few years. Wheat will follow. The transgenic method is just too good."

As a result, Pueppke believes North America may lose some important markets. Although processors promise segregation, he thinks it is impractical on a large scale. "If one tries to segregate and fails, big consequences will occur," he says. "The tolerance is zero."

In a few years, biotechnology will produce even more complex soybean varieties through genetic manipulations. Right now, companies are moving one and two genes. Pueppke predicts that, in the future, the gene transfer will involve many genes to produce products from lubricants and fuels to healthier oilseeds.

Other multi-gene programs already are under way for products such as naturally khaki- or denim-colored cotton. And the palm oil business is working to make its product heart healthy.

Consumer acceptance of transgenic crops will continue to be an issue, however. "When it comes to food, most North American consumers worry only about how cheap it is and how fast it can be prepared," Pueppke says. "But it's not that way in Europe. The consumer confidence in the government's ability to protect them is very shaken."

But in the long run, biotechnology and transgenics will flourish, he predicts. It may take five to 10 years. But when it does, all aspects of agricultural business will be changed, he says.

Sealant helps maintain tires

Valvoline claims that its new tire maintenance product protects tires against air loss and conditions inner liners for tread life.

Valvoseal can last for the life of the tire unless used in high-puncture areas. The calcium concentrate sealant can be used in most any size tire and comes in cartridges, 1-gal. jugs, pails or drums. Contact Valvoline Co., Dept. FIN, Box 14000, Lexington, KY 40512, 800/255-3533, HYPERLINK http://www.valvolinehd.com www.valvolinehd.com.

New Web sites

Ask the expert tractor mechanic anything at www.thetractordoctor.com

MDS Harris soil testing laboratory articles on nitrogen cycle, saline and alkaline soils and more at HYPERLINK http://www.mdsharris.com www.mdsharris.com

Soybean flashback

If you were farming 30 years ago, you may remember when soybeans averaged 27 bu./acre. At that time, 40 million acres were planted to the crop and 32 varieties were available to plant. This year, more than 70 million acres are planted in soybeans from 1,000 different varieties. Farmers can expect yields averaging 40 bu./acre.

Portable welder, portable power

Now available with a Honda engine, Lincoln's Power Arc 4000 can weld on site with 1/8-in. electrode or be used as a power source with 120 and 240v, 60-Hz receptacles.

The unit features a simple, single dial control instead of a tap design. The Honda engine is a 9-hp GX270 OHV overhead valve with a cast-iron cylinder sleeve for wear. The engine has an auto shutdown if oil is low. For starting, an automatic compression release reduces recoil pulling force. It also has a built-in spark arrester that keeps electrical sparks from spitting out of the exhaust pipe and a 1.6-gal. fuel tank. List price: 1,732 dollars. Contact Lincoln Electric, Dept. FIN, 22801 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, OH 44117, 216/481-8100, HYPERLINK http://www.lincolnelectric.com www.lincolnelectric.com.

Beat Pests to the punch

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a simple test kit that will give you early warning if pests are building up resistance to Bt toxins in Bt-resistant crops.

The container of the kit looks like a clear, plastic cellular phone. It has dozens of small capped wells, each with a thin "meal pad" of dehydrated insect food. The meal pad has a blue indicator dye that insects ingest along with the food.

You hydrate the meal pad with water (mixed with a small amount of the Bt or insecticide you've used on your fields), then collect bugs from the field and drop them in the wells -- one bug per well. After the insects eat the meal pad and defecate, you will know if they are resistant to the insecticide that you've mixed in the water. If they are, their feces will be blue.

The kit is in the last phase of the patent process and should be available soon. Contact Agdia Inc., Dept. FIN, 30380 County Rd. 6, Elkhart, IN 46514, 219/264-2014, www.agdia.com.

Practical Problem Solvers

It was not uncommon for visitors viewing the gadgets at the 42nd annual Minnesota Inventors Congress to suddenly exclaim, "Wow! Why didn't I think of that?"

Their amazement was testament to the simplicity and utility of the exhibitors' solutions to typical farming problems. Here are a few of the ingenious inventions: some for the field, some for the shop and a few that just make good sense.

No more spaghetti. One December, Kevin O'Rourke was helping his wife set up Christmas lights and was troubled with all the extension cords winding around on the floor like spaghetti. So he created the Multicord to eliminate the tangle and add convenience, with no loss in power.

The Multicord is a series of component cords from lengths of 2 to 10 ft. and a box with two outlets. A 220v adapter is included that is pulled off a circuit breaker. The first section of the Multicord fits into the adapter.

"I don't care whether you're a farmer, construction worker or electrician. It doesn't matter because the Multicord provides power and convenience," says O'Rourke, who owns O'Rourke Electricity in Waterville, MN. "You can use it single phase 220 or three phase, or it can be used as a single 110v circuit." For more information, contact O'Rourke Electricity Inc., Dept. FIN, Rt. 2, Box 4500, Waterville, MN 56096, 507/362-4896.

The right cut. Don't think you're the only one who has miscalculated the exact place to saw on a piece of wood. Dave Reisinger is a cabinetmaker who says he came up with the Exact-Cut out of necessity. "I was going broke throwing away lumber," he says. "Have you checked on the price of lumber lately?"

Exact-Cut is somewhat like the old protractors used in math class and might be even simpler to use. You can measure inside or outside corners or simple angle cuts anywhere. You simply lay the Exact-Cut into the corner and move the dual components flush with the two edges.

"This will give you the right cut the first time," Reisinger states. For more information, contact DC Trim Co., Dept. FIN, 1026 31st Ave. N., St. Cloud, MN 56303, 320/259-9469.

Air delivery. Steve McDonnell wasn't happy with the air reels of his combine, so he took the same concept into the shop and walked out with the Air Guard, a hollowsickle guard that allows a stream of air to keep grain heading into the innards of the combine.

Basically he tooled down a typical sickle guard, then drilled a port. "The air delivery system is the same," McDonnell says. He installed a PVC port into the guard that attaches to a high-pressure air stream blower. "We were pretty happy with the results," he says. "This should, once and for all, eliminate the loss of beans that shatter when they hit the cutter bar. It simply blows the beans off the bar and into the combine." For more information, contact Steve McDonnell, Dept. FIN, Box 163, Beardsley, MN 56211, 320/748-7751.

An end to reel flash. As they say in west-central Minnesota, "Uffda!" That was the typical reaction of those farmers who caught Grant Hanson's Right Light, an extended halogen light system for a combine. A bank of seven lights, 350W each, extends ahead of the combine reel, eliminating reel flash and allowing the operator to see what actually goes into the combine after dark.

"There is always a cloud of dust between the reel and the cab of the combine," says Hanson. "It's hard to see through that, but at night you start experiencing reel flash. That means that your eyes tend to focus on the shiny, moving parts. That is hypnotic, but also quite stressful. The Right Light eliminates that."

Extending the light beyond the reel produces a "back light" behind the reel so the operator can see the lighted crop. The dust becomes inconsequential.

To operate the Right Light, a circuit is pulled off the main box and wired directly into the light so there isn't a draw on the power source. Hanson says that, for added convenience, the boom is adjustable.

"So far we've designed one for the Deere combines, but that isn't a limiting factor," Hanson says. He is currently looking for a manufacturer. For more information, contact Glenridge Inc., Dept. FIN, 186 N. Hwy. 55, Glenwood MN 56334, 320/760-1522.

Compact wire stretcher. If you've ever tried to carry one of those heavy and awkward wire stretchers through rough terrain, then you will appreciate the Fence Buddy.

Dennis Fisher, who ranches in the Sisseton, SD, area, has designed a compact, lightweight, yet tough fence stretcher that comes in a small case that can be carried in a toolbox or hung over a saddle horn.

"Usually we're out for a few days checking cattle," says Fisher, "and those old fence stretchers got awful old carrying around."

He has combined some rather high-tech materials (extra-strength nylon webbing used in cargo strapping) with new-style wire grips that work equally well with smooth or barbed wire. You can tighten a broken wire for splicing or stretch wires to a post. The wire grip ends and ratchet are zinc coated to prevent rusting. Since the congress, Fisher has upgraded the design of the grips to give them a 30 percent higher tensile strength. For more information, contact DSLA Co., Dept. FIN, Rt. 3, Box 115, Sisseton, SD 57262, 800/387-3752.

Hay transporter. William Keller brought his original Hay Cradle to the Inventors Congress last year, but after a year of milking cows and doing some flank-side dreaming, the Belgrade, MN, dairy farmer returned to the show with an improved cradle with "value-added" components.

The dolly, called the Super Transport 2000, allows you to lift a 600-lb. bale of hay and tote it like a golf bag. "It's all in the axle," Keller says.

"We make the handle with high strength, ultra-light metal that is triple reinforced and electronically welded. We add a tough torque bar to give you leverage," he explains. He added a saddle attachment or tack attachment, a wood carrying box and a poultry box, which is popular with pig and turkey farmers. "We can come up with any configuration a person can conceive with this Super Transport 2000. Why, we're just scratching the surface," Keller says. For more information, contact Keller's Rocking WK Ranch, Dept. FIN, 12075 270th Ave. N.E., Belgrade, MN 56312, 877/957-2624.

Wheel adjustment. Lamberton, MN, farmer Tom Turbes is a frequent exhibitor at the congress, and this year he came with a neat add-on safety product he calls the Safe-Quick Wheel Adjustment. The threaded adjustment bolt configuration for a gauge wheel is quick and accurate and is sure to prevent pinched fingers or hands.

"If you've ever tried to adjust gauge wheels that you have to unbolt to adjust, then you can see the beauty in this," says Turbes. "There is none of that. All you need is a couple of wrenches and you can raise or lower the wheels to whatever depth you want, quickly and conveniently." For more information, contact Turbes Enterprise, Dept. FIN, Rt. 1, Box 255, Lamberton, MN 56152, 507/752-7713.

Hay puncher. Jerry Schmitcke was tired of wrestling with his baler when it became choked with hay.

"I did about anything you can think of to unplug a baler," says the Menoken, ND, farmer. "I dug them out. I pried. I kicked." Then he went and did something about it; he created a hydraulic add-on called the Inforcer that literally punches plugged hay into the baler.

"I had one on an older baler that worked really well, and I've made a few more for different balers," Schmitcke says. "Heck, these are even adaptable to new model balers. They're about as trouble free as possible, and, yes, I've got a couple of large baler manufacturers coming out to look at it."

The unit pounds the plug with a steady rhythm until it is taken through the baler. "Once it gets started the baler just pulls it in," Schmitcke says. For more information, contact Jerry Schmitcke, Dept. FIN, 2801 171st S.E., Menoken, ND 58558 701/673-3375.

Electric fence. Gene Boyes introduced the Dura Fast Electric Fence System, a unique and simple system that he says evolved over the course of several years. Make that 40 years. "Ever since I started farming, I thought there was a better way of fencing than with wood," Boyes says.

He designed a permanent electric fence that is fast and easy to install, yet durable, and is erected with just a few simple hand tools. It allows the use of steel T-posts for the whole job. "Everything else is bolted on," Boyes says.

The fence has post anchors and post stabilizers, an adapter plate, and corner and gate insulators made of Plexiglas. "If properly used, the system should never ground out on any steel parts," Boyes says. The key component is the adapter plate, which fits over the T-post and allows for adjustment in the brace and anchors. For more information, contact Gene W. Boyes, Dept. FIN, Rt. 1, Box 76, Tamarack, MN 55787, 218/768- 2136.

Need some help?

For a fee of 250 dollars, you just might be able to find the best employee you've ever had. AgJobsUSA, an agricultural employment search company, can take the hassle out of finding a needed farm hand, office manager or livestock helper. (The company also lists specialists in fields such as IPM, biotechnology and equipment, or irrigation engineering.)

With the fee, the company places help wanted ads in the classified sections of 60 leading agricultural publications, and your information is put into a database. Potential employees receive a printout of the database each Friday.

Employee candidates pay a 50 dollars fee for a 60- day listing (if they are not hired, an additional 60-day listing is added free of charge). According to a recent survey by the company, 76 percent of employer respondents rated the system an 8 or higher, out of a scale of 1 to 10. Contact AgJobsUSA, Dept. FIN, Box 433, Garden City, KS 67846, 800/352-0303, www.agjobsusa.com.