Office of Technology Transfer & Commercialization


Agricultural engineers develop system to prevent combine fires

Scott Forth of Onida begins the sunflower harvest. He tested a device that may hold the key to reducing, or even eliminating combine fires.

"What a nightmare," blogs one North Dakota sunflower farmer, describing fires smoldering in combine engine and ladder compartments, under the rotor belt and in front of the radiator.

"And the harvesters have 800 acres to go," he laments. This scenario illustrates the challenges sunflower producers face during harvest.

"Sunflower producers have known for a long time that they had a more severe risk of fire than producers of corn, soybeans or wheat," says professor Dan Humburg of the agricultural and biosystems engineering department.

In the fall of 2011, a team of SDSU agricultural engineers set out to analyze the problem and figure out how to prevent the fires through funding from the South Dakota Oilseeds Council.

"It's not if they have a fire, but when," adds Kevin Dalsted, who coordinated data-gathering and input from area producers and assisted with technical and design work.

Through this project, the engineering team has designed a device which when fitted onto a combine, drastically reduces and may even eliminate these fires.