Reid Laser Leveling uses two Miskin 15-yd. 315 scrapers and a 24-yd. 24C, which are pulled by New Holland 360-PTO-hp 9682 and 395-PTO-hp TJ450 tractors. The scrapers are mainly pulled as singles.
"We have anything from clay to sand to gravel," says Reid. "Some of the hardest loading stuff is 'blow sand.' But these things really load well. I am really impressed."
The 24C construction scraper is the most recent addition to the fleet. It enables Reid to handle the very rough terrain on the greenhouse sites. As a side benefit, he discovered the extra capacity translated into increased productivity. "I should have had the 24-yd. scraper a lot sooner," he adds. "I get double my finish time vs. [the 15-yd. scraper]."
The cutting width has also proven an important attribute for achieving final grade. Reid previously owned a 17-yd. scraper that had a 10-ft. cutting width. "I didn't like it vs. my 315 because the 315 is 15 ft. wide," he explains. Cutting width also influenced the decision to acquire the 24C. "That's why I went to the 24C for doing finishing cuts with a laser. It is 14 ft. wide on the cut."
Fixed blades are also important for accuracy. "For me, the best feature about a Miskin scraper with a laser is it is one of the only machines - unless you go to an ejector scraper - that the blades are fixed," says Reid. "So I can cut and fill on grade with a laser. With some of the dump scrapers, their blade pitches with the dump action. I actually leveled a field one time with a dump scraper and I had to go back over it with my Miskin to re-level it."
The scrapers are set up with a Trimble laser system. "When you get the scraper and the laser working together, it does a nice job," says Reid.
The finish grade is automated. An indicate system in the cab lets the operator know exactly where grade is. "I usually run on manual at first and do all of the cuts," explains Reid. "Then all you have to do is throw it in automatic. Manually, I am usually moving dirt around 10 mph. I am finishing at 6 mph."
The range with the laser is more than adequate. "You have no problems with a 50-acre site," says Reid. "I will set it up in the center."
The niche Reid Laser Leveling carved out continues to grow as the larger greenhouses continue to pop up. And with his current setup, Reid has been able to save the greenhouses money by moving dirt more efficiently than many of his competitors.
Simplifying with laser system
Southern Missouri-based Dirt Works performs primarily construction and precision land leveling for agriculture. "We try to stay within our area," says Nathan Dillenger. However, the company has also performed jobs for the Memphis International Airport.
Dirt Works currently runs John Deere 1814 and 1812 18-yd. scrapers and a Reynolds 16LSE finishing scraper. These are pulled by two John Deere 475-hp 9530 tractors and a 450-hp 9520. The tractor operators have between five and 12 years of experience running the pull-type scraper systems.
On construction jobs, Dirt Works has performed a lot of work with both stake grading and lasers. "I have been there and done them both," says Dillenger. "The laser system is so much easier."
The accuracy with the Trimble laser systems has been within hundredths. But it sometimes depends on the soil. "You may have to loosen it up to let the soil start flowing a little better," Dillenger says.
Although the pull scrapers are equipped with an automated grade control, the choice between using manual or automatic control for the final grade depends on site conditions. The automatic feature is not always the best option. "It is real sensitive," reports Dillenger. "If the wind is really bad, you can't run automatic because the light gets moving a little and it throws it all over the place."
The manual operation has not proven very difficult to use. "The receiver in the cab gives me a high light, a low light and a grade light," says Dillenger. "The grade light is green, and we try to keep it green all of the way across."
While Dillenger is sold on the laser technology, he believes some contractors are just set in the old ways of grading with stakes. "I try to tell them that they could do a much better job with the lasers," he adds.