Method and Apparatus for Preventing the Drive Wheels of an Irrigation Machine from Becoming Stuck in the Mud

- LINDSAY CORPORATION

To prevent the rut-like wheel tracks of an irrigation machine from becoming so deep that the wheels of an irrigation tower can become stuck in mud and water accumulating in the track, a foundation member is inserted into select, potentially troublesome portions of the wheel track to provide support for the wheels during subsequent passes of the machine. In one embodiment the foundation member comprises a generally rectangular pad constructed from synthetic resinous material and designed to be hooked together with other such pads in a chain-like series to provide the length of foundation required. In another embodiment, the foundation member comprises a thinner web or ribbon of preferably synthetic resinous material that may be wound into a coil for storage and cut to length as required. A third embodiment comprises a series of end-to-end pads hingedly interconnected by thinner lines of weakness that may be severed to provide a desired length of foundation member.

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Description

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to large irrigation machines of the type utilized in watering crops in the field and, more particularly, to a way of preventing such machines from becoming stuck in the water and mud in deep wheel tracks created when the machine repeatedly passes through soft spots and depressions in the field.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY

Center pivot and lateral move irrigation machines have been plagued for many years with the problem of deep wheel tracks caused by repeated passes of tower drive wheels over the same path of travel again and again. While the tracks may be shallow at first, they may become progressively deeper with each pass, and in those areas of the field where drainage is a problem, the wheel tracks may collect water and become so deep that the wheels literally get stuck in the mud. This problem can occur at any of the towers on the machine and at any place in the field such that it takes only one stuck tower to shut down the entire machine. Getting the tower unstuck can be a time-consuming and difficult process, and consequential irrigation delays during critical watering schedules may become costly in terms of potential crop yield losses.

The present invention provides a method and apparatus for preventing this problem. In its broadest aspects, the invention contemplates preparing a foundation in potentially problematic wheel tracks that the tower wheels can ride upon as the tower traverses the problem area. It is recognized that the majority of any particular wheel track will not pose a problem; however, after a number of passes by a machine, certain areas of the track may begin to deepen and collect water to such an extent that it becomes apparent this particular area is going cause problems. At that time, a foundation member in accordance with the present invention may be inserted into the track and laid at the bottom thereof in position to be engaged by the tower wheels on their next pass. One preferred approach contemplates inserting foundation members immediately behind the lead wheel of a two-wheeled tower such that the foundation members are in position to be engaged and pushed down into final position by the trailing wheel of the tower. With the foundation members in place, the weight of the tower is borne by the foundation members as the wheel passes over, and further deepening of the wheel track is substantially eliminated.

One embodiment has individual foundation members in the nature of a generally rectangular pad, preferably constructed of high density Polyethylene or the like. Each pad has a width that is slightly less than the nominal width of the wheel track, so that when the pad is placed within the track, the sides of the track confine the pad and keep it from moving out of place. Each pad is preferably provided with interlock structure at its opposite ends so that an appropriate number of pads can be interlocked end-to-end in a series of sufficient length as to provide adequate foundation through the troublesome area.

In another embodiment, the foundation material may be somewhat thinner and take the form of a ribbon that can be laid down in the track and cut to the desired length. Preferably, the ribbon is sufficiently flexible as to permit storage in the form of a coil for convenient transport and dispensing. It is further contemplated that the mobile tower itself may be utilized to carry the supply of foundation members to the trouble site.

In a further embodiment, the foundation material is similar in thickness to the separate pad embodiment, but each pad is interconnected with additional such pads in a series by hinging lines of weakness. The continuous string of pads may be conveniently stored in a somewhat flat-sided coil as permitted by the lines of weakness. A string of pads of any desired length may be severed from the rest of the supply at an appropriate line of weakness and laid down in the wheel track to support the wheels.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a fragmentary perspective view of a center pivot irrigation system with which the principles of the present invention may be utilized;

FIG. 2 is a top isometric view of one embodiment of foundation member in accordance with the present invention wherein the member is in the nature of a foundation pad;

FIG. 3 is a bottom isometric view of the foundation pad of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged, longitudinal cross-sectional view through the foundation pad of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is an isometric view illustrating the manner in which a pair of foundation pads may be interlocked end-to-end, the pads being illustrated in the initial stage of interlock;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged, fragmentary longitudinal cross-sectional view through the interlocking structure of a pair of the pads in the condition of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of the two foundation pads with the interlock process partially completed;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged, fragmentary longitudinal cross-sectional view of the interlocking structure when the parts are in a condition corresponding to FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is an isometric view illustrating three of the foundation pads fully interlocked to create a series of the pads;

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary, enlarged, longitudinal cross-sectional view through one of the interlocking structures corresponding to the fully interlocked condition of the pads in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a fragmentary isometric view illustrating the process of installing an interlocking a pair of the foundation pads within a wheel track;

FIG. 12 is a fragmentary longitudinal cross-sectional view of the wheel track and interlock process of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is an isometric view similar to FIG. 11 but further along in the installation process illustrating a series of four of the foundation pads interlocked within the track;

FIG. 14 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view of the wheel track with the four foundation pads installed as in FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is an isometric view similar to FIGS. 11 and 13 but showing a completely installed string of interlocked foundation pads with the trailing wheel of the irrigation tower riding upon the last few foundation pads in the string;

FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view of the wheel track with the foundation pads and the trailing wheel in the same condition as FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a fragmentary, enlarged, transverse cross-sectional view through a typical wheel track with a foundation pad in place and a drive wheel riding on top of the pad to illustrate relationships between the parts under such conditions; and

FIG. 18 is an isometric view of a second embodiment of foundation member in which the member comprises a ribbon of material that can be stored in a coil and conveniently cut to length before being placed within a problematic wheel track;

FIG. 19 is an isometric view of a third embodiment of foundation member in which the member comprises a string of pads hingedly interconnected in a continuous string by thinner lines of weakness so the string can be stored in a flat-sided coil and severed from the supply in desired lengths; and

FIG. 20 is an isometric view illustrating how a string of interconnected pads in accordance with the first embodiment can be easily stripped out of the wheel track at the end of a season of use.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms. While the drawings illustrate and the specification describes certain preferred embodiments of the invention, it is to be understood that such disclosure is by way of example only. There is no intent to limit the principles of the present invention to the particular disclosed embodiments.

For purposes of example, the present invention has been illustrated in the drawings, and will hereinafter be described, in connection with a center pivot irrigation machine. However, it should be apparent to those skilled in the art that the principles of the present invention are not limited to use with a center pivot machine. Indeed, the principles of the present invention may be applied with great benefit to lateral move machines as well.

The center pivot irrigation machine 10 illustrated in FIG. 1 has a long, water-carrying conduit 12 that is supported at spaced locations along its length by a plurality of mobile towers 14. Conduit 12 is adapted to pivot about the upright axis of a supply pipe 16 which is connected to a source of water (not shown) and is supported by a fixed tower 18. Various of types of sprinklers or emitters (not shown) are typically provided along the length of conduit 12 for directing water onto the ground in the vicinity of machine 10.

Each mobile tower 14 has, in the illustrated embodiment, a pair of driven ground wheels 20 and 22 that propel the tower 14 through the field. Ground wheels 20, 22 are driven by an electric motor 24 or other suitable means on the tower. Wheels 20, 22 are in fore-and-aft alignment with one another such that wheel 22 trails directly behind and in alignment with leading wheel 20.

As the towers 14 move through the field in repeated passes, their ground wheels 20, 22 leave wheel tracks 26 that can become progressively deeper with each pass. By monitoring the tracks, the farmer can determine which areas in the tracks present potential trouble spots that could benefit from the use of a foundation member in accordance with the present invention. Allowing a wheel track to reach depth of from 8 inches to 12 inches before inserting a foundation member is probably a good idea, as a wheel track of that depth will assist in retaining the foundation member in place, as will hereinafter be described.

One embodiment of foundation member in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 and is identified by the numeral 28. In this preferred embodiment, foundation member 28 comprises a generally rectangular body or pad 29 of material having a top 30, a bottom 32, a pair of opposite lateral sides 34 and 36, and a pair of opposite ends 38 and 40. Preferably, pad 29 is constructed from a suitable synthetic resinous material such as, for example, high density Polyethylene, although a number of other materials may be satisfactory. If pad 29 is constructed from high density Polyethylene, it may advantageously be injection molded.

Pad 29 has a thickness dimension of such magnitude that pad 29 is fairly rigid. Although some flexibility is permissible, generally speaking pad 29 retains its shape under heavy loading sufficient to keep a number of the pads interlocked with one another in a manner yet-to-be described. As will be seen, however, a second embodiment which does not use interlocking means but is instead essentially of continuous length, can be thinner and thus more flexible without departing from the principles of the present invention.

While it may be possible that only a single foundation pad 29 is utilized at any particular trouble spot, it is likely that two or more of the pads may be connected together to form a series in the wheel track. Thus, each pad 29 is provided with interlock structure broadly denoted by the numeral 42 and including one or more male components 44 at one end and a corresponding one or more female components 46 at the opposite end 40. In a preferred embodiment as illustrated in the figures, a pair of male components 44 and a pair of female components 46 are provided at opposite ends.

Each male component 44 is in the nature of a hook having a generally outwardly and longitudinally projecting top leg 48 and a downturned tang 50 at the outer end of leg 48. Top leg 48 is slightly offset upwardly from the remaining body of pad 29 which helps to create an angled recess 52 below leg 48 and rearwardly of tang 50. In addition, the male component 44 includes a keeper lip 54 that projects axially outwardly from the lower end of tang 50 for use in keeping male component 44 releasably locked within a corresponding female component 46.

Each female component 46 includes an opening 56 configured complementally to a male component 44 for the purpose of releasably receiving and retaining component 44 when a pair of the pads 29 are interlocked end-to-end. Thus, each opening 56 includes an undercut portion at its front extremity that defines an overhanging ledge 58. At its rear end, each opening 56 has a transverse bar 60 that is slightly recessed with respect to the top surface of pad 29. Thus, as illustrated in FIG. 10, when a male part 44 is locked within a corresponding female part 46, part 44 is hooked over bar 60 as the latter is received by recess 52. Tang 50 projects downwardly into and through opening 56, while lip 54 is trapped beneath overhanging ledge 58. Thus, the two interlocked pads 29 are restrained against axial movement relative to one another by bar 60 and are restrained against vertical displacement relative to one another by overhanging ledge 58. In effect, ledge 58 and lip 54 keep tang 50 hooked over bar 60.

Preferably, each pad 29 is perforated so as to present a plurality of apertures 62. These allow water and soil to escape from underneath the pad when the pad is laid into a muddy wheel track. Apertures 62 also help keep the pad in place within the wheel track and reduce the tendency for the pad to float up out of the bottom of the track. In one preferred form, each pad 29 is 12 inches wide and 30 inches in length, which width works well in a wheel track made by a standard tire that is 14.9 inches wide.

Installation and use of the foundation pads 29 is illustrated particularly in FIGS. 11-17. As the tower begins to move down into a problem area wherein the machine may get stuck on some future pass, one of the pads 29 is placed on the downslope behind lead wheel 20 as illustrated in FIG. 11. In a preferred arrangement, pad 29 is oriented such that the female interlock parts 46 are closest to wheel 20 and male interlock parts 44 are the most remote from wheel 20. Then, as lead wheel 20 moves on down the slope and space permits, a second pad 29 is connected to the first pad 29 using the vertical insertion/swing down locking technique illustrated in FIGS. 5-8 (turned 180° from those figures). Additional pads 29 are added from right to left as lead wheel 20 continues to move ahead until an appropriately long string of the pads has been created.

As illustrated in FIGS. 13 and 14, as wheels 20, 22 move through a wheel track 26 and enter a deep, muddy portion, the lead wheel 20 tends to push a surge 64 of mud and water ahead of it, which makes it difficult in that instance to place pads 29 in front of lead wheel 20. Thus, it is generally desirable to carry out the foundation installation process immediately behind lead wheel 20 in a progressive right-to-left pattern as described above. However, installing pads 29 behind, rather than in front of, lead wheel 20 is not a requirement, and in some instances it may be desirable to place pads 29 elsewhere, depending upon the nature of the wheel track 26 and the conditions in front of lead wheel 20.

FIGS. 15 and 16 show a long string of installed pads 29. Any number of pads 29 may be installed, as need be to meet the conditions at hand. Once installed behind lead wheel 20, the pads of the string are engaged and seated down into place by trailing wheel 22 as it moves down into the problem area of the wheel track and becomes supported by the pads. As illustrated in FIG. 17, depending upon the width of each foundation pad 29, the lateral sides 34, 36 are relatively close to sidewalls 66 and 68 of track 26, and the bottom 32 of pad 29 overlies the bottom 70 of track 26. This positions pad 29 for use as a solid foundation within the otherwise soft portion of the wheel track and gives firm support to wheels 20, 22 the next time they override pad 29. Hooking the pads together in a string keeps the pads in alignment and allows them to assist one another in maintaining the proper position within the wheel track.

It will be appreciated that the pads 29 once installed within a wheel track may be left in place permanently or removed at the end of a season as may be necessary or desirable. As illustrated in FIG. 20, if removal is desired such operation is quickly and easily accomplished by simply picking up one of the pads at the end of a series and lifting it out of the track, whereupon the other pads connected to the lifted pad will also be stripped out of the track. The individual pads can then be readily disconnected from one another if desired, or left in a connected series.

It has been found convenient to transport a number of pads to the trouble site using the particular tower whose wheel track is to be fixed. In this respect a lower, horizontally disposed structural pipe 72 on the wheel tower 14 may be utilized to support a container full of the pads 29, or other arrangements can be made for supporting such a supply of the pads.

It will be appreciated that pads 29 can be quickly and easily installed, and at a relatively low cost. Moreover, their use as a preventive measure keeps the irrigation machine from becoming stuck and causing the serious problems that are a natural consequence of such negative occurrence. If properly utilized, the pads in accordance with the present invention can prevent the frustrating situation wherein a single isolated trouble spot in only one wheel track can shut down the entire machine.

ALTERNATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 18 shows a second embodiment of a foundation member in accordance with the present invention, such embodiment being denoted by the numeral 128. In this embodiment, foundation member 128 takes the form of a continuous ribbon or web 129 of material that may be cut to appropriate length to accommodate the particular trouble spot involved. Preferably, ribbon 129 is constructed from a suitable synthetic resinous material such as high density Polyethylene.

The foundation ribbon 129 is somewhat thinner than the foundation pad 29 of the first embodiment and thus is not as stiff Preferably, ribbon 29 is of such a thickness that it can be stored in a coil as illustrated in FIG. 18. To facilitate such coiling, one side of ribbon 129 may be provided with a series of transversely extending grooves 130 that give increased flexibility to the ribbon. Preferably, ribbon 129 is perforated to present a plurality of apertures 162 for the same reason that apertures 62 are provided in pad 29.

Ribbon 129 has opposite straight sides 132 and 134 and is preferably about 12 inches wide. Thus, when a desired length of ribbon 129 is unwound from the coil and cut off, a generally rectangular piece is obtained that will fit down into the problematic wheel track and stay in place. When the severed piece of ribbon 129 is in place within the wheel track, it is retained by the sidewalls of the track in essentially the same manner as illustrated in FIG. 17 with respect to the foundation pad 29.

A third embodiment of a foundation member in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 19 and is denoted by the numeral 228. In this embodiment, foundation member 228 is blend of the first and second embodiments, taking the form of a series of individual pads 229 interconnected by thinner, hinging lines of weakness 231 to form a continuous strip. Pads 229 are thicker than ribbon 129 of the second embodiment, and are similar in thickness to pads 29 of the first embodiment. Although each pad 229 may be of any suitable length, it is believed that a length of about thirty inches is optimum, with a width of about twelve inches. Preferably, foundation member 228 is molded from a suitable synthetic resinous material such as high density Polyethylene, and each pad 229 is fairly rigid, as in the first embodiment. Lines of weakness 231 permit member 228 to be coiled into a flat-sided coil for storage and transport, as with the second embodiment. Apertures 262 help keep foundation member 228 seated within a wet, muddy track in the same manner as the first and second embodiments.

To install foundation member 228, a desired length is unwound from the coil and cut off at the appropriate line of weakness 231. When the severed length is then inserted down in the problem area of a wheel track, it is retained by opposed sides of the track in the same manner illustrated in FIG. 17 with respect to the first embodiment.

The inventor(s) hereby state(s) his/their intent to rely on the Doctrine of Equivalents to determine and assess the reasonably fair scope of his/their invention as pertains to any apparatus not materially departing from but outside the literal scope of the invention as set out in the following claims.

Claims

1. In a method of irrigating a field using an irrigation machine that is provided with a water supply conduit supported by a plurality of mobile towers disposed at spaced locations along the length of the conduit, each of the towers having at least one load-bearing, ground-engaging wheel, the improvement comprising:

running the machine in the field until the at least one wheel creates a recessed wheel track in the ground;
inserting a foundation member into the wheel track in such a manner that a load-supporting surface of the member faces upwardly and the foundation member is confined by opposite sides of the wheel track; and
running the machine in such a manner that the at least one wheel rides on the foundation member when the at least one wheel is in the wheel track.

2. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 1,

said foundation member comprising a generally flat pad having a top, a bottom, a pair of opposite lateral sides, and a pair of opposite ends.

3. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 2,

said pad having interlock structure at said opposite ends for releasably joining together a plurality of the pads in a series.

4. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 3,

said interlock structure comprising a male part on one end and a female part on the other end.

5. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 1,

said foundation member comprising a ribbon of material capable of being stored in a bulk roll and severed into desired lengths.

6. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 1,

said foundation member comprising a series of foundation pads integrally interconnected by thinner, hinging lines of weakness.

7. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 1,

each of said towers including a leading load-bearing wheel and a trailing load-bearing wheel disposed to run in the same wheel track,
said inserting step being carried out behind the leading wheel and ahead of the trailing wheel.

8. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 7,

further comprising the step of interlocking a number of the foundation members together in end-to-end relationship.

9. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 8,

said interlocking step being carried out within the wheel track.

10. In an irrigation method as claimed in claim 1,

further comprising the step of transporting a supply of the foundation members on a mobile tower to the wheel track.

11. A foundation member adapted for insertion into a recessed wheel track in the ground for supporting wheels of a mobile irrigation tower when the wheels are in the wheel track, said foundation member comprising:

an elongated, generally flat pad having a top, a bottom, a pair of opposite lateral sides, and a pair of opposite ends; and
interlock structure at said opposite ends of the pad for releasably joining together at least a pair of said pads in end-to-end alignment.

12. A foundation member as claimed in claim 11,

said interlock structure comprising a male part on one end and a female part on the other end.

13. A foundation member as claimed in claim 12,

said male part comprising a hook having an outwardly extending leg and a downwardly projecting tang at the outer end of the leg,
said female part comprising an opening for receiving said tang of the hook.

14. A foundation member as claimed in claim 13,

said tang of the hook having a generally outwardly projecting lip at the lower end of the tang,
said opening being complementally configured with respect to the hook to present an undercut, overhanging ledge disposed to overlie the lip when the hook is locked in the opening and thereby resist release of the hook from the opening.

15. A foundation member as claimed in claim 14,

said pad having a plurality of apertures therein.

16. A foundation member as claimed in claim 11,

said pad having a plurality of apertures therein.

17. A foundation member as claimed in claim 11,

said pad being constructed from a synthetic resinous material.

18. A foundation member as claimed in claim 17,

said material comprising high density polyethylene.

19. A foundation member adapted for insertion into a recessed wheel track in the ground for supporting wheels of a mobile irrigation tower while they are in the wheel track, said foundation member comprising:

an elongated, generally flat ribbon of material that may be severed into desired lengths,
said ribbon of material having a top side and a bottom side and a series of longitudinally spaced, transverse grooves in one of said sides to permit the ribbon to be stored in a coil.

20. A foundation member as claimed in claim 19,

said ribbon having a plurality of apertures therein.

21. A foundation member as claimed in claim 19,

said ribbon being constructed from high density polyethylene.

22. A foundation member adapted for insertion into a recessed wheel track in the ground for supporting wheels of a mobile irrigation tower while they are in the wheel track, said foundation member comprising:

a series of flat pads aligned in end-to-end relationship; and
flexible lines of weakness hingedly interconnecting the pads and integral therewith.

23. A foundation member as claimed in claim 22,

said lines of weakness being thinner than the pads.

24. A foundation member as claimed in claim 22,

each of said pads having a plurality of apertures therein.

25. A foundation member as claimed in claim 22,

said pads and said lines or weakness being constructed from high density polyethylene.

Patent History

Publication number: 20090087260
Type: Application
Filed: Oct 2, 2007
Publication Date: Apr 2, 2009
Applicant: LINDSAY CORPORATION (Omaha, NE)
Inventors: Thomas J. Korus (Lindsay, NE), Charles H. Meis (Albion, NE)
Application Number: 11/866,317

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Combined Sheet And Preformed Module (404/18)
International Classification: E01C 5/00 (20060101);