Weather keeps farmers from the fields

Last winter’s brutally cold weather has had some lingering effects on local farming operations. The frost went down very deep. Soils in many fields have been slow to warm up. Combine this with some unusually cold temperatures for spring with wet weather, and we have had a difficult situation for area farmers to contend with.

A trip across northern Trumbull County late last week didn’t show much ground ready to plant nor seeds planted. Tender yet hardy little seeds like a warm place to germinate and to grow. That hasn’t been the situation.

This past week did see some warmer days with 70 plus-degree temperatures. Soils have warmed up some but we still need more sunshine. We’ve also had too much rain for the best planting conditions.

Estimates as of last week said that only 9 percent of corn in Ohio has been planted and just 3 percent of the soybeans. Locally, it was probably less than that, but some more may have been planted in the last few days.

Farming is at the mercy of Mother Nature. What she deals to them is what farmers have to live with. And it’s not always what they would like for the best farming operations.

One of my farmer friends said last week, “When the weather breaks and we can get in the fields, look out.” What he was saying was planting operations all across the area will be going full speed. That also means night and day for most of them. They know they have to take advantage of the window of opportunity when it comes. What tomorrow brings in the way of weather is usually a mystery.

Sure, they all watch the weather forecasts and plan their schedules accordingly. Then Mother Nature may change those plans for them. Long-range weather forecasts that I have seen call for a prolonged cool spring. We’ll see.

Since many local farmers plant a lot of acres, that means they have to travel on the highways to get from field to field. Large farm equipment usually doesn’t move very fast down the road. So we need to be careful when we meet or pass a tractor with a tillage tool or planter hooked on behind. A good measure of patience when we get behind farm equipment is helpful.

Companies that provide farm supplies also have a hectic schedule when the weather breaks. Farmers have a tendency to want lime or fertilizer today – or maybe even yesterday. And they may all call in about the same time to get their service.

They do need their supplies and many of them can’t be applied until the weather is favorable. So farmers are all in the same situation and need their lime or fertilizer now. It makes for difficult scheduling for everyone.

Once crops are out of the ground and growing, its competition with the weeds and weed control is important. Many farmers have their own sprayers while others hire commercial applicators. They want the sprays put on at the right time and that puts more pressure on suppliers.

Another challenge comes along in late May. Hay needs to be made. That can conflict with the late planting of corn or soybeans. Finishing planting may have priority. That can mean hay harvested that is too mature and has lost some of its value for feeding.

So it can be a difficult spring for local farmers. They will work hard to make the right choices and do their best to produce the food that goes on our dinner tables.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.