Biomass Harvesting in Winter Conditions
The harvesting of biomass crops often takes place under conditions that are unusual to some farmers.
Cold temperatures, snow, and frozen ground can present hazards not typically encountered during harvesting, since these crops are often harvested later in the season.
For example, biomass willow is harvested when the ground has frozen, after the leaves have dropped and the plant is dormant, in contrast to more traditional crops that are usually harvested before much snow has accumulated.
Two perennial grasses used for biomass purposes, miscanthus and switchgrass, are commonly harvested after they have dried down in the late fall or winter, and sometimes on into spring before growth recurs.
Growers of these crops need to be aware of the new hazards they may face in the field when going into biomass production.
When preparing to go outdoors to begin the harvest, it is important to dress for the weather. Wear a warm hat, boots, and gloves.
This will help protect vulnerable parts of the body from cold temperatures and chilling winds that can lead to frostbite.
Coats and jackets should fit snug to the body.
Bulky clothing can change how you move around the machinery or get caught in moving parts.
As an added precaution, be sure to turn off equipment before working on any part of the machine.
Harvesting equipment which is otherwise familiar to the farmer may also pose new challenges in colder weather.
Inside the tractor, maintain the cab heater to help keep the operator position at a comfortable temperature.
Make sure to keep steps and railings clear of snow and ice, as these can become slippery when wet, increasing the risk of injury.
When driving on icy or snow covered roads and fields, consider using snow chains on tires for better traction.
Ice in the field can make it more difficult to control equipment in precision maneuvers and braking may become less effective.
For example, here you see a willow harvester loading a wagon driving alongside the chopper.
This procedure can be difficult in dry conditions, and is even more challenging when snow and ice are present.
Harvesters should pay close attention to the weather conditions, and be aware of the potential for rapid changes.
Increasing winds can create blizzard or whiteout conditions quickly, posing an increased safety risk both during harvest and on roads.
Drastic temperature changes can quickly cause freezing conditions and ice.
Be prepared to manage any frustration that can come while waiting for improved harvest conditions.
By using the techniques outlined here, growers will be better prepared for the potential hazards that come with winter harvesting.