Equipment Roundup: Deere Upgrades 5M Tractors, Undergrads Make Bins Safer, Bonus Ask the Mechanic

— An optional panoramic roof for improved visibility from the cab.

— Smart Connector for select 5 Series tractors to monitor maintenance intervals and tractor performance through a Bluetooth connection.

For more information:



Two University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering students have been awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their invention designed to keep grain farmers safe.

Seniors Ben Johnson, an electrical engineering major from Aurora, Nebraska and Zane Zents, a computer engineering major from Omaha, pitched the plan for their product, Grain Weevil, for the national award. They were chosen alongside three other undergraduate teams and four graduate winners. They will receive a $10,000 prize.

The Grain Weevil is a small robot designed to maintain grain, eliminating the need for farmers to enter bins. The latest version of the Grain Weevil is a 30-pound remote-controlled robot that uses augers and gravity to level grain and redistribute it throughout the bin. It can be transported by backpack and is waterproof and dustproof. If it is accidentally buried, it can dig itself out of up to 5 feet of grain.

To see the Grain Weevil in action:…



DTN/Progressive Farmer’s Ask the Mechanic Columnist Steve Thompson answers readers’ mechanical questions. You can read Steve’s columns every month in Progressive Farmer’s digital edition (click on the “Resources” tab to find the magazine and inside, Steve’s Ask the Mechanic columns).

If you have any questions for him, you can contact Steve at: Write Steve Thompson at Ask the Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email:

Here is Steve’s answer to a recently submitted question by a reader:

Reader: I have a question about how to hook up a drag mower I bought to my International 656. After I hook the hitch to the drawbar, the PTO shaft on the mower is too long to slip onto the PTO shaft of my tractor. I believe the previous owner had an International tractor. I have never hooked anything to the swinging drawbar, and I am not sure if it is the correct length. What should be the length of the drawbar?

Steve: Your question is an area that is of concern on many tractors. The drawbar’s standard length is 14 inches from the end of the PTO shaft on a tractor to the center of the pin hole in the drawbar. This measurement is a standard measure for any implement turning at 540 RPM. If the implement is a 1,000 RPM shaft, the length should be 16 inches from the end of the PTO shaft to the hole in the drawbar. This measurement is critical because the PTO shaft must have room to telescope and recede as ground terrain changes when pulling a drag implement and as the mower is raised and lowered on a three-point implement. Many times, new tractors come from the factory with the drawbar placed as far under the tractor as possible for shipment. Without proper drawbar length adjustment, an implement hooked to the swinging drawbar can appear to be too long. Don’t cut it off until you have adjusted the swinging drawbar to the standard setting for the speed of the PTO. If the driveline on a drag implement is a three-joint, with the proper length of the drawbar, the adjustable “tipping bearing” should run close to vertical with tractor parked on level ground.



I guess we have all experienced the aggravation of running into garbage that people have dumped in the field, but the other day in the field I got into some electric fence wire that almost equaled the time the reel on my Haybine got tangled up in a set of bed springs that someone dumped in my alfalfa field. The electric fence wire that my neighbor’s cows brought me last winter started wrapping around the gauge wheel hub and eventually the complete length of the 24-foot cultivator. It finally sliced a tire like a sharp knife. When removing the wire, it was very difficult to keep the sharp cuts in the wire from springing back and cutting my fingers. Be careful with tight wire — it moves very quickly when cut. Pappy Thompson always said, “Bad fences make bad neighbors.”

Dan Miller can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

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