Hibernating Fields

December 05, 2016

winter corn field

Winter in the open rural space of northern Illinois can be rather bleak. When the line of the horizon blurs between the gray blue of the sky and the dirty white of the ground, the short winter days actual seem rather long.

So, what happens on a farm in the winter? Several farm bloggers have written about the paperwork, the care livestock receive, and the general maintenance of the farm and farm equipment. But what about the fields, those acres that seem to sit empty doing nothing but hibernating in the cold air?

Winter, snow, and cold temperatures are important to grain farmers. Winter literally allows the soil to rest. The snow replenishes moisture in the ground. Snow doesn’t match a good spring downpour, but it does help. The cold temperatures cause the soil to freeze and on the days of some warmth, to thaw. This constant freeze and thaw naturally break up any compaction created during the previous season of planting and harvest when tractors, combines and other equipment followed paths across the fields.

Additionally, cold temperatures help control insects, freezing some larvae in the ground. It won’t eliminate a mid-season bug infestation, but again, it certainly helps. Winter, spring, summer and fall . . . here in Illinois we farm with the seasons.

Originally posted on January 31, 2014. 

Katie Pratt

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises cattle and row crops only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog, The Illinois Farm Girl.

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