After the long stressful days of watching the weather, avoiding as many break-downs as possible, and moving equipment from field to field are over a grain farmer’s work is over, until harvest, right?
That is just the beginning.
Planting is a stressful and vulnerable time for farmers, not only because Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants to, but because they are about to risk a large chunk of change by planting little seeds into a big black field of soil. Many weeks, if not months, go into prepping for planting. Farmers must pick their seed variety, purchase the seed, cultivate their fields (unless they no-till), and eliminate all the weeds they can before nestling the seeds into a cozy bed.
Here’s a list of what farmers do after their planting is finished. As you will see a Farmer’s work is never truly finished.
Check for sprouting/ swelling seeds
Farmers must keep a close eye on their seeds and the amount of moisture they are taking in. If a seed takes up water it will begin to swell and if temperatures aren’t high enough the seed will not germinate and will rot in the ground.
“The seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed imbibes the water, takes it in, but doesn’t germinate because it’s too cold,” says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa.
If it has rained, check the soil for crusting
A soil crust forms after rain droplets cause the soil to break into individual particles. The small particles then get washed together and join together into a hard crust, preventing moisture from going in and seeds from going out of the ground. Farmers need to be aware of a crust forming and will have to use appropriate tillage equipment to break the crust if necessary.
Confirm the seed population
Many pocket knives are used for this job. I remember watching my PawPaw get down on one knee and dig through the rich dark soil to look for seeds. Farmers do this to authenticate that their planters released the right about of seeds, not to overcrowd the plants or not use the land to its full potential.
Monitor plants for insect damage
Insects want to munch on the corn and there aren’t many options to prevent this, except spraying pesticides. Check out what this farmer has to say about using pesticides to protect his yield.
Look for weed pressure-if present decide if spraying is necessary
Weeds are a huge hindrance on the growth of a farmer’s crop. Therefore monitoring the amount of weed growth is important, if they are overcrowding and stealing nutrients from the plants a farmer will need to consider spraying his field.
Check color of plants
This may seem strange but the color of the crop will tell you a lot about how it is maturing. Yellowing crops aren’t healthy and need attention, or possibly less rain.
Take a deep breath and relax
I doubt this will be very easy for farmers as they follow grain prices on the roller coaster until the crop is ready to harvest. They can take this down time to get all of the equipment ready for the approaching fall.