Commercial Fertilizer Spreaders: What Are They?
A commercial fertilizer spreader is a machine used to apply fertilizers. Commercial fertilizer spreaders are used to apply fertilizers such as manure, compost or other nutrients into fields, which will then be harvested and turned into food for livestock or humans. Most commonly these machines are made from steel and have wheels. These machines are usually equipped with a spray nozzle and a large tank where the fertilizers are stored.
The most common type of commercial fertilizer spreader is called a lesco. Lesco means “leather” in Italian, so it’s quite fitting that they’re known as leather spreading machines. Other types include:
Tractor-mounted spreaders: These are often referred to as tractor spreaders because tractors were originally designed to pull heavy loads of hay, straw or other materials. A tractor-mounted fertilizer spreader can be very effective at applying fertilizer over long distances, but its power is limited compared to a homemade one. Tractors do not require any maintenance and tend to break down less frequently than other kinds of machinery.
Trailed spreaders: A trailed spreader has an opening at the bottom, while the top of a towed spreader can be either open or closed. These types of spreaders are mounted on three or four wheels and pulled behind a tractor. This means that they’re harder to turn but easier to control than a towed style fertilizer spreader.
It also means that the wheels need to be slightly wider in order to enable them to keep traction with the ground.
How to Use a Towed Fertilizer Spreader
Before you begin spreading the fertilizer, it’s important that you take the time to learn how to do so without damaging any of your equipment. It’s also important that you don’t damage the crops, grass or plants that you’re trying to fertilize. This means that the ground has to be just right, which is something that requires a lot of skill with some experience.
The first thing that you should do is place the spreader on a flat surface in an open space. If the ground is uneven, the unspread fertilizer isn’t going to be able to spread out evenly, which will cause some of your crops or plants to be under-fertilized and others to be over-fertilized. Next, unlock the release valve.
This releases the fertilized from the tank and into the spreader.
As the spreader begins to fill up with fertilizer, you’ll need to keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t get too full. If the fertilizer is packed in too tightly, it’s going to clog up the spreader and cause a backup. This can lead to a potentially very dangerous situation, especially if you’re working near plants or crops that are particularly flammable.
After you’re confident that there’s enough fertilizer in the spreader, you can begin to drive forward slowly. As you do so, the fertilized will drop from the spreader and land exactly where it needs to in order to help your crops grow.
Common Spreader Problems
Most spreaders don’t require too much maintenance, but there are some potential issues that you may run into at one time or another. One common problem is that the release valve can become clogged up with fertilizer, preventing it from opening when you want to release more fertilizer. In this case, you should take a stiff wire and try to unclog the valve as best you can.
Another common problem is that the spreader will become clogged up with fertilizer. This can happen in a number of different ways, from fertilizer becoming packed in too tightly to the spreader coming into contact with hard surfaces and getting jammed. If the spreader becomes clogged, you should stop using it immediately and try to clear the blockage as quickly as you can.
One of the more dangerous spreader problems that you may come across is known as a backfire. This can happen if the fertilizer in the spreader becomes packed in too tightly and then some of it compacts during use. This causes a build up of pressure, which eventually gets so great that the fertilizer catches fire.
In order to put it out, you need to stop using the spreader immediately and try to move as far away from the spreader as possible.
How to Maintain a Towed Fertilizer Spreader
In order to ensure that your towed fertilizer spreader continues to work properly and doesn’t become a safety hazard, you’re going to have to perform some routine maintenance on it from time to time. This is an easy process that you can do yourself in just a few easy steps.
The most important part of maintaining a towed spreader is keeping the blade sharp. If the blade is dull, it’s going to cause the spreader to vibrate excessively and put more strain on the engine. This is going to lead to a shortened lifespan for your towed spreader and will require more maintenance than it would if you kept the blade sharpened.
In order to sharpen the blade, you need to remove it from the towed spreader. This process is going to be slightly different depending on what type of spreader you have, but in most cases all you need to do is loosen a few screws with an Allen key and then pull the bolts out. After the bolts are out, you can slide the blade forward and pull it off.
After you’ve removed the blade, take it into a workshop and clamp it into a vise. Then, find the angle that you need to sharpen the blade at and use a file or whet stone to sharpen it. Make sure that you’re not removing too much material from the blade or else you’re going to make it weak and more likely to break.
It should only take a few minutes to sharpen the blade and most manuals that come with spreaders will let you know what angle you need to sharpen it at.
After you’ve sharpened the blade, put it back on the spreader and make sure that it’s secure by tightening down the bolts.
Next, you’re going to want to check the tire pressure and inspect the rest of tires on the spreader. Air leaks or other problems with the tires are going to cause an uneven spread and may even damage the spreader, leading to costly repairs that you can avoid with a little preventative maintenance.
After you’ve inspected the tires, you should also check the oil level in the engine. Low oil can cause the spreader to overheat and can even damage the engine. Check the level according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Finally, you’ll want to give the rest of the spreader a once over in order to look for any other potential problems. Look for anything that seems worn down or broken and replace anything that you find immediately.
These steps should be repeated every 50 hours of use in order to get the longest life possible out of your towed fertilizer spreader.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Yield reduction resulting from uneven fertilizer distribution by HT Søgaard, P Kierkegaard – Transactions of the ASAE, 1994 – elibrary.asabe.org
Effect of vane shape on fertilizer distribution uniformity in single-disc rotary fertilizer spreaders by Y Yildirim – Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 2008 – elibrary.asabe.org
Effect of vane number on distribution uniformity in single-disc rotary fertilizer spreaders by Y Yildirim – Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 2006 – elibrary.asabe.org
Adjustment mechanism for seed and fertilizer spreaders by EA Juzwiak – US Patent 2,710,116, 1955 – Google Patents
Agitating and discharging disk structure for fertilizer spreaders by GF Stahmer, RW Foley – US Patent 2,541,008, 1951 – Google Patents
Precise placement and variable rate fertilizer application technologies for horticultural crops by AW Schumann – HortTechnology, 2010 – journals.ashs.org
Agitator for fertilizer spreaders by EL Masters – US Patent 2,526,609, 1950 – Google Patents
Fertilizer spreaders and the like by EA Juzwiak – US Patent 2,715,482, 1955 – Google Patents