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Moving quickly in the fields

Dry weather and dry crops means farmers have to harvest quickly

MORRIS – Huge combines, tractors, and semis have frequented Grundy County’s fields and roads in recent weeks, decked with bright orange caution signs. The men and women operating them are working to complete the annual harvest.

Farmers across the county will continue to work to bring in their corn and soybean crops.

Russel Higgins, a crop science educator at the University of Illinois Extension Office in Morris, said area farmers are off to a great start.

“We’re ahead of schedule, really charging into it,” he said.

According to Higgins, it is common for harvest to begin at the start of October, but due to the dry, warm weather this summer, many acres were harvested in September.

However, this lack of moisture can be a double-edged sword. The dryness that allowed an early harvest will also lower the yield of area crops, according to Victoria Wax, manager of the Grundy County Farm Bureau.

Higgins said that the lack of rain caused issues this year.

“[The] most limiting factor is moisture,” Higgins said, “You can do everything absolutely right, but if you don’t get the right weather the plants aren’t going to produce.”

Clara Ross, who with her family farms about 400 acres around the village of Ransom, also took issue with this year’s weather.

“We didn’t get the rain we really needed,” Ross said, “If [the crop is] too dry you’re losing your test weight, losing money.”

Ross said she grew up around the farm and has her family to thank for getting her started in the agriculture industry. Although the farming business overall is getting older with each passing year, Ross said she believes young people will be able to pick up the mantle.

“I think at least in my area it’ll keep going for a long time,” Ross said.

Local farmers have also seen a challenge this year with a drop in crop prices due to tariff tiffs between the United States and Chinese governments, Higgins said.

China buys a large amount of soybeans from the United States. The new tariffs lower Chinese demand for American soybeans and causes The United States to compete with South American nations for Chinese soybean markets. The drop in demand lowers the price of soybeans, Higgins said.

Higgins said he is curious to see if farmers will favor corn over soybeans for the 2019 year due to tariffs.

Despite that challenge, both Ross and Higgins have said the harvest overall has gone well.

“Considering Grundy County was so dry, it was a good yield,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he has been impressed with the speed of farmers over the last few years. Not too long ago it would be common to see farmers working on an 80 acre field for a few days. Now it can get done in a day.

“It’s really remarkable to see how quickly Grundy County farmers can plant and harvest,” Higgins said.

Higgins said this is due to larger planters and combines and other increases in technology.

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