Fall is a busy time for many reasons: school commitments, community events, team sports. But for farmers, it’s all about harvest. They’ve planned, prepared and monitored their fields since early spring, and now it all comes down to these last couple months. After all, they only get about 50 chances throughout their career to grow a successful crop, so they want to get it right each time.
But what does it take to reach harvest time? Let’s take a peek.
Growing acres of healthy crops requires a lot of advanced planning. Farmers start making decisions for planting in the fall by selecting the right seeds and preplant strategies for their farm. Adverse conditions like cold temps, pests and competitive weeds can challenge young seed growth so farmers get their fields in tip-top shape to minimize those obstacles.
They often use sustainable strategies like soil sampling and cover crops to protect the fields during winter, capture nutrients and preserve the land. Many farmers also choose to plant GMO seeds, which are created with the right genetics to defend against weather conditions and potentially reduce the need for insecticides.
Today’s farmers are grounded in science and data. They know their fields better than ever. Once seedlings emerge, farmers use precision technology to monitor each acre and keep an eye on how their crops are doing. If the plants are low in nutrients or facing pressure from pests or weeds, they can deliver the right product, where it’s needed in precisely the right amount to reduce waste.
Adapting to Conditions
While advancements in technology have boosted farmers’ accuracy and access to data, nothing is guaranteed in farming. There are many variables that require farmers to adjust their plans on a dime. For example, the best time to safely spray pesticides is when it’s dry, the forecast is clear, temperatures are moderate and wind speeds are low. If a product is needed, but the conditions aren’t right, farmers adjust their strategy.
As leaves change color in the fall, soybean fields transform as well, changing from green to a light golden brown. During this time, farmers watch their crops closely to determine the right time for harvest. If soybeans are harvested when they’re too wet, the combine struggles to process them, and they don’t store well. On the other hand, if they’re harvested when it’s too dry, the brittle beans can shatter, resulting in crop loss. Farmers must balance time, weather and moisture when choosing the most optimal time.
Improving for the Future
Shortly after harvest is complete, farmers get right back to work planning for the next season. With in-depth data and observations, they improve their strategy to grow healthier crops more efficiently and sustainably for the next year.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.