Weather propels farmwork

November 22, 2018

The cold weather hasn’t been a hindrance to Tony Peirick. It’s actually been a big help for the Watertown farmer, who chairs the Dodge County Farmers Healthy Soil - Healthy Water group. Peirick like many other farmers across the state has been busy operating combines to harvest corn and soybean from their fields.

Although overnight lows dropped into the teen and single digits Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Sullivan, fields once home to mud and water are nearly frozen allowing farmers to get heavy machinery into their fields to harvest their crops. Peirick said it’s been a tough growing season for farmers with the amount of water they had to contend with this year. But, despite the colder than normal temperatures this November and even the light snow that fell this past Friday and Saturday, it’s a welcomed change to the heavy rainfall earlier this year.

Peirick, who has 500 acres of corn and 300 acres of soybeans and 200 head of dairy cows, said he can get into the wet areas now and get the corn off of his land.

But for the most part corn harvested for grain was 80 percent complete, seven days ahead of last year and two days ahead of the five-year average. The soybeans harvested was 91 percent complete, seven days behind last year and nine days behind the average, according to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“The trace of snow that fell last week is nothing compared to the amount of rain we had to deal with over and over again this year,” he said.

Peirick said if the snow totals amounted to two to three inches rather than just a trace last week it would’ve posed more of a problem and he wouldn’t have been able to get the remaining corn off his field. “The colder than normal temperatures this month has been a blessing in disguise for those farmers getting the last of their crops off their fields,” he said inside the warmth of his Case combine Tuesday morning.

Peirick, who advocates for no till farms, said the practice of no till helps with water filtration in the soil.

“If you don’t till the soil you don’t disturb it,” he said. “It’s like if you had a home and tore it down every spring to build a new one. It doesn’t make sense to disrupt the soil over and over again -- just like it wouldn’t make any sense to keep rebuilding a new home.”

Peirick said there are more living organisms in a handful of soil than there are people living on Earth.

He said tilling the soil simply destroys those organisms including the bacteria and nutrients within the soil.

“Once the soil is tilled it takes approximately three to five years before it rebuilds itself,” the 62 year old said while operating his combine in a field along County Highway Q in Watertown.

He said studies have shown that plant roots develop at least as well in a no-till field as in a plowed one and that the lack of mounding exposes less of the soil to air and evaporation.

“The topsoil is also not lost to wind and water,” he said while watching his freshly combined corn shoot into a grain wagon kicking up dust in the air. “But right now this cold weather and lack of precipitation has helped me wrap up my harvest and get the corn combined. Overall, it was a tough year, but most of us got through it.”

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