A Publication of WTVP

During a normal planting season, farmers should be busy in the fields by at least the first week of May. When weather permits and that window of opportunity for planting begins, farmers need to transport their large, wide and slow-moving farm equipment on our roads. But in many areas of Peoria County that have seen residential growth, what were once rural roads with solitary traffic have become urban roads with lots of motorists. While it may be frustrating for motorists to be slowed down by farm equipment, it can also be nerve-racking for farmers traveling busy roads.

As you travel this spring and encounter farm equipment, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your drive safe and comfortable. Be aware of the “Slow Moving Vehicle” emblem on the rear of farm equipment. This orange, triangular symbol indicates the equipment is traveling at a slow speed, often less than 20 miles per hour. Please stay far enough behind the equipment so its operator can see you in the mirror, and remember: if you cannot see the mirror, the farmer cannot see you! Approach and pass when on level terrain. Of course, it is against the law to pass in a no-passing zone—but it’s also illegal to pass within 100 feet of an intersection, railroad crossing or bridge.

Often times, there are two orange flashing lights on the rear of farm equipment. If one of these orange lights is blinking and the other is solid, the blinking light indicates the direction that the farm equipment will turn. Left-hand turns are especially dangerous, as the operator must be able to see behind him to make sure no one is passing, as well as look ahead for oncoming traffic.

As farmers, we try to avoid transporting farm equipment during rush hours, bad weather or on the busiest roadways. If road conditions are safe, we need to pull over temporarily to allow traffic to pass. We also need to be aware of mailboxes, narrow bridges, road signs and other structures that will require us to temporarily move part of the equipment into the oncoming traffic lane.

So just what equipment will be traveling rural roads? This spring, there will be tractors pulling field cultivators and planters, large floater trucks used to spread fertilizers, and pesticide and nitrogen applicators. In the fall, combines, tractors, trucks and auger wagons will be on the road during harvest.

Over the past winter, farmers have been working on equipment; purchasing seed, fertilizer and chemicals; preparing for application of these inputs; attending seminars and workshops; and general forecasting for this busy season.

All this planning and preparation boils down to four to six weeks in the field—where the “rubber hits the road,” so to speak. Farming is a unique occupation, and timing is crucial. The soil needs to be worked when it’s at the proper condition: not too wet, which causes compaction, nor too dry, which causes dusty conditions and loss of soil moisture. Herbicides must be applied when wind conditions are at a minimum and the sun is shining to be most effective. Fertilizers need to be applied when soil conditions are most responsive, and seed has to be planted at the proper time when soil temperatures are adequate and enough moisture is available for the seeds to germinate.

How do farmers plan their day-to-day schedule this planting season? They don’t have to: the weather will plan it for them. They just need to be ready to go. iBi