For any farmer spring is a busy, busy time. There is equipment to get ready, fields to work, animals to care for, fertilizer to order, manure to spread, barns to open up again, and, in some areas, there are even stones to pick. That’s right, picking stones.
You might never have thought about this as a chore that farmers have to do, but in stony areas of Ontario it is a necessary and essential task. On my farm, especially when I was growing up, a regular family chore each spring was going over our fields and removing stones. We would all head out in our work boots, and warm layers, one person would get lucky and get to drive the tractor that day, and the rest of us would each get a fork to help load the stones into the tractor’s bucket. We would then go over the fields and pick any stone that was big enough to harm our equipment.
Stones can cause big trouble with machinery, especially planters. There are many parts in planters such as disks and springs and packer wheels that can not only break on impact with a stone, but it can cause all the hard work that a farmer did to set his planter just right to come undone. This can lead to many other problems in the field because seed placement in the soil won’t be as accurate.
Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older and busier, there are some solutions and other options to stone picking. For example, you can buy mechanical stone pickers that can be hooked up to a tractor and driven over a field in order to eliminate some of the labour needed. Another way that farmers have lessened the need for stone picking is through less and shallower tillage. For example, on my farm just like many others, we used to plow the field every year. This was a deep form of tillage and would bring many more stones to the surface resulting in lots of stone picking. Now we use no tillage in our soybeans, and only disc (a shallow form of tillage) for our corn. This means fewer rocks are brought to the surface, less time is spent picking rocks, and we have more time to focus on the many other spring tasks to be done around the farm.