"I’ve never dealt with anything like this."

Farmer's Almanac

A massive solar storm rocked the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles this weekend, triggering spectacular auroras in the night sky across a substantial swath of both North America and Europe.

The storm reached "extreme" levels — Category G5 — on Friday and Saturday, enough to wreak havoc on communications equipment and even the power grid, believed to be the strongest storm of its type in over 20 years.

And as the New York Times reports, the storm was particularly devastating for farmers in the US and Canada, whose tractors and other equipment broke down in the middle of planting season — a fascinating and rare example of just how fearsome space weather can become despite our planet's protective shell.

Sitting in the Dark

Tractors that rely on GPS and other navigation tech shut down after the Sun's ferocious storm, with seed-sowing operations grinding to a halt.

"I’ve never dealt with anything like this," Minnesota corn and soybean farmer Patrick O'Connor told the NYT, noting that he was warned his GPS system may experience an outage.

"All the tractors are sitting at the ends of the field right now shut down because of the solar storm," a Nebraska-based farmer told 404 Media. "No GPS. We’re right in the middle of corn planting. I’ll bet the commodity markets spike Monday."

Farm equipment company John Deere's "StarFire" receivers that combine GPS with other sensor data were hit particularly hard, and issues may persist going forward.

"When you head back into these fields to side dress, spray, cultivate, harvest, etc. over the next several months, we expect that the rows won't be where the AutoPath lines think they are," John Deere's statement to farmers reads, as quoted by 404 Media. "This will only affect the fields that are planted during times of reduced accuracy."

The Sun has entered the most active part of its 11-year cycle, unleashing a cascade of powerful solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other streams of energetic particles heading our way, which means we'll likely see more storms like this weekend's through the end of the year.

Fortunately, some farmers got to witness a beautiful show unfurl as consolation for their failing equipment.

"I was able to see the Northern Lights in all their glory," O'Connor told the NYT.

More on the storm: Massive Solar Storm to Trigger Northern Lights Across North America

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