Home > farm, history, image, Images, Seasons > Changes in Farming and Harvest Update

Changes in Farming and Harvest Update

Tractor

Most of the fields are starting to look like the one in the picture.  I would guess that here in Central Illinois that almost all the soybeans have been harvested along with 70 percent of the corn. The weather has been dry for the past two weeks.  If it were not for the grain elevators not being able to keep up with handling the corn harvest would probably be over by now.  Yesterday the local elevator only stayed open until noon.  Tomorrow we may be in for another spell of wet weather.  At least it looks like there is a chance for rain each day for the next several days. 

After the fields are clear farmers don’t have as much to do as they once did.  Now I am not a farmer, however I still live in a farm area.  My best knowledge of farming comes from when I was growing up on a farm in the 60’s and 70’s. At that time I actually did some farm work.  My current knowledge comes from having a father who is still somewhat involved in farming and from observation. 

Two things that farmers do after harvest is apply fertilizer and add soil amendments like lime.  The vast majority of farmers do not do this themselves. Instead the companies that sell these products also apply them.  These companies are fairly big employers in rural areas.  Many kids who grew up on farms, but who cannot find a place in farming go to work for these companies.  My understanding of why some farmers apply fertilizer in the Fall is to save some time in the spring in that it may allow them to plant sooner.  The disadvantage is that the fertilizer can wash off during the winter.  This runoff accounts for some of the high nitrate levels which are found in the water in places that rely on surface water. 

Fall tillage is the main post harvest task for farmers.  And it is in the area of tillage where farming has changed a great deal.   Once a major task for everyone was fall plowing.  This involved turning the soil over so that it was exposed in big chunks.  During the winter the freezing and thawing cycle would break these chunks up so that they could be more easily tilled in the Spring.  The trouble with this fall plowing is that it left the bare soil exposed to the elements all winter.  And bare soil generally will erode at a great rate.  It took some time for farmers to admit that this was a problem.  And it was mostly the incentives in various government farm programs that lead farmers to practice the minimal tillage of today.  Once my father plowed all of his fields in the fall.  Now he just disks the corn fields to break up the stalks and he does nothing to the soybean fields.  Most farmers take a similar approach. It has been a long time since I have seen a plowed field.

If you could take a farmer from thirty years ago and bring him into the present in say January or so, the first thing he would notice is that none of the fields are plowed.  If you could do the same for some farm kids of that time they would notice that there is no source for dirt clod fights.  A dirt clod fight is when we would go out into a plowed field with the lids from metal garbage cans for shields and throw dirt clods at each other.  We usually did this in the late winter when the soil had broken up.  Generally it was considered bad form to not hit the other guys shield, however it did happen.  Still I don’t remember anyone ever being seriously hurt. Mostly it was just a way to get outside and burn off some energy after a cold winter.  And most farm boys, myself included, back in those days very much liked to throw things.

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Categories: farm, history, image, Images, Seasons
  1. cheryl
    November 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    you crack me up. sounds pretty idyllic though :o)

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