Give a farmer a mechanical problem and the problem will get solved. Nobody tinkers with machinery more than a farmer. The new equipment shown at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Farmer Idea Exchange proved farmers' persistence and ingenuity. They came up with 43 inventions and ideas during the 1999 program. We're bringing you some of the ideas developed for Midwest crop and livestock farmers.

Conveyor safety switch

Tired of out-of-control bale conveyors when you're loading or unloading by yourself? Rick Mabeus, Winfield, IA, designed on-off switches to attach to both ends of a bale conveyer. You can load the conveyor, stop it and go to the top and start it up again to unload the bales. Mabeus used high-quality, electric 3-way switches with waterproof covers and the proper electric wire for the motor. He inserted all of this into a conduit attached with a clamp bracket to the outside rail of the conveyor. He also slowed the conveyor chain speed so that the motor can start the conveyor without problems when the conveyor is fully loaded. Contact Mabeus at 22419 60th St., Winfield, IA 52659, 319/257-6764.

Setting drill seed rates

David Wilson wasted many hours trying to set the proper seed rate on his no-till drill. So the Greensburg, IN, farmer designed a system that solved the problem of getting correct seed-to-acre counts while using bulk seed. The result of his efforts is the Drill Scale System, which won an honorable mention in the idea exchange program.

The system uses four electronic weighbars, two 1-in.-dia. brackets to secure weighbars in the frame of the drill holding them level, four T-shaped brackets to pin the end of the weighbars, and eight threaded rods to connect the hopper of the drill to the T-brackets. Plus, an electronic readout indicator box is mounted either on the frame of the drill or inside the tractor cab. The system weighs the seed in the hopper and reports it on the indicator box.

To use the system, you first zero out the indicator box and begin filling the hopper with seed. The box will display the weight of the seed in the hopper. After planting a couple acres, check the weight of the hopper. The weight used is divided by the number of acres planted to give you an accurate count of the seed-per-acre rate. Changes may then be made to fine-tune the seeding rate of the drill. Run a few more acres and check the rate again. Contact Wilson at 4847 North Co. Rd. 350 W, Greensburg, IN 47240, 812/663-8756.

Moving tractor weights

Placing and removing 100-lb. tractor weights makes for back-breaking work. W. Harvey Roberts solved this heavy problem by designing a front tractor weight holder to hold 20 weights, which can be lifted off the tractor with a front-end loader. This means that Roberts does not have to lift 2,000 lbs. every time the weights must be moved.

Roberts says the holder is simple and inexpensive to construct. It weighs only 60 lbs. and costs $35 for materials. The weights are bolted together and are moved either hydraulically or by a chain fall. Contact Roberts at 489 N. Indiantown Rd., Shawboro, NC 27973, 252/336-4793.

Aligning an auger

If you need help aligning your auger with a wagon for unloading, an invention from Glen Forrest may help. The new device includes a light mounted on a hopper that is triggered when the auger is properly aligned. Not only does the light indicate when the wagon and auger are aligned, it also lights up the unloading area for safety. Contact Forrest at 7916 E. 3400 N. Rd., Potomac, IL 61865, 217/987-6497.

Ammonia tank winch

Reduce the time and back strain required to hitch an anhydrous ammonia tank to an applicator bar with a new tank winch. Brothers Dale and Delmar Graham of Wellington, IL, designed the tank winch so only one person is needed to hitch a tank. The invention took first place in the American Farm Bureau Federation's Farmer Idea Exchange. For their top honor, the brothers will receive one year's free use of a New Holland tractor.

A farmer using the winch must simply back the tractor and applicator bar to within 5 to 10 ft. of the tank. An electric motor and winch do the rest of the work, pulling the tank towards the applicator bar for fast hookup. Once the tank is hooked, the ammonia lines can be attached to the applicator.

The brothers purchased an electric motor that runs off the tractor battery to operate the winch. They also purchased a 9,000-lb. cable and shortened it to 25 ft. for the winch. They hired a local welder to build a steel receiver, which is where the tank tongue fits. The winch can be removed from the applicator hitch, but the receiver is permanently attached to the hitch. Contact the Grahams at 372 N. 2400 E. Road, Wellington, IL 60973, 815/984-4908.