One local farmer said recently that "if you have grain to harvest in northeastern Ohio, expect to harvest in some mud." It seems like that is the situation again this fall. While we had a dry period in early to mid-October and a lot of soybeans and some corn were harvested, there are a lot of acres still out there to get combined.
Wet, muddy conditions make for a difficult harvest. With four-wheel drives and larger tires on many combines, farmers can get into the fields to combine. In the process, they cut up the fields and leave them with many ruts and deep wheel tracks that will be a problem next spring. Also, some smaller farmers may not have four-wheel drive combines, which makes harvest tough.
Once the grain bin on the combine is full, it has to be emptied into either grain trucks or self-unloading wagons to get to storage bins someplace. Normally, the truck or wagons would drive out to the combine and the grain augured into them. If everything is going right, the truck or wagon can drive alongside the combine and get filled without stopping the machine.
But in wet, muddy conditions, everything seldom goes right. Trucks, and sometimes tractors pulling grain wagons, can't get into the fields. So the combine has to be driven to the edge of the field to unload. This slows down harvest and can cause more deep ruts.
Wet weather also doesn't let the grain dry down like it needs to be for safe harvest. So it has to be dried at the bins before storing and that costs money. Wet grain at the storage elevator is docked in price.
So you see, if you live in town, wet, rainy weather can cause problems in more ways than just getting you wet. One rural TV station broadcaster likes to say "if you like to eat, you are involved in agriculture." Weather conditions can affect the price of your food. Those conditions can be drought, too much rain, snow storms and blizzards.
For example, the recent blizzard out in some of the western states with four or more feet of snow caused serious loss in many beef herds. That storm came on as heavy rains that turned to snow and the resulting blizzard almost overnight. Livestock farmers didn't have a chance to get their cattle to shelter or to get hay out to them. As a result many farmers lost 50 percent or more of their livestock that were still out on pastures. This was a serious loss financially to them. It can also cause a rise in price of our beef because most of the cattle were going to market later this winter.
Locally, the muddy conditions can cause other problems. While farmers try to keep mud from their equipment off the highways, it is difficult. If they do cause a problem, most of them will clean it up with equipment on their tractors.
So if you do find a little mud on your road, please have a little patience. Most of your farmer neighbors are doing their best to get their crops harvested and keep things clean.
Here in northeastern Ohio we also have to be concerned about early wet, heavy snow falls - and we have had them in the past. They can destroy any soybeans still out there and also knock down a lot of corn. That causes losses and makes it hard to harvest.
Let's hope for dry weather before a snowfall!
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.