Grain farmers claim ATVs spoil winter crops growing under snow

One of the signs put up by farmer Argo Must.
One of the signs put up by farmer Argo Must. Source: ERR

The snowy and frosty winter has attracted many ATV riders to nature, which is an unfortunate sight for grain farmers and the Environment Board, who claim riders are spoiling winter crops and disturbing the peace of nature reserve residents.

A wide open snowy field may seem inviting to many with ATVs or snowmobiles, but the layer of snow may actually be a protective blanket for green winter cereals, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Tuesday.

"The plants are weak, it is between 0-0.5 degrees under the snow. That is the most optimal wintering temperature for winter cereals. But if a snowmobile drives over it, the grain will freeze, spoiling it," cereal farmer Argo Must told ERR.

To remind off-road vehicle drivers of this fact, Must has ordered 30 signs to put up for the winter. Still, it did not take long for snowmobile tracks to appear on that very same field.

"These tracks go over all fields here for about 5 km. All fields in the way got hit. Of course, if there is half a hectare of harvestable grain here, there is also a financial loss. But for me, it is still that snowmobile and ATV riders should think before they go on somebody's land," the farmer said.

He added that he has spoken to riders, which has improved things some, but if someone moves to the area, they need to be told not to take their vehicles on the fields.

While farmers have to deal with the riders themselves, the Environment Board initiates proceedings against riders, who drive around protected areas, each year.

In addition to destroying the nature, the vehicles also disturb the animals, who may be hibernating. "We have a few dozen proceedings each year, there are often many more complaints. On the one hand, awareness has certainly improved, but on the other hand, there are more and more vehicle owners and new ones are not so familiar with the rules," said Environment Board nature use department chief specialist Märt Öövel.

The main rule is that it is likely not allowed to ride off-road vehicles on nature reserves and on the banks of bodies of water. The particular landowner must give consent if vehicles are taken off-road.

"Actually, all farmers have wintering cereals. There are straw fields you can drive on. I do not think it is hard for an ATV or snowmobile rider to get in contact and discuss things, everything is reasonably solvable," Argo Must added.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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