A sunny outlook: Area’s crops doing well this summer

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Jason Smathers
Monday, July 12, 2010
— After last year’s severe and cool weather, local farmers are breathing a sigh of relief that this year’s crops are ahead of schedule.

UW-Rock County soils and crops educator Jim Stute said the combination of steady rain and high temperatures this year has helped most major Wisconsin crops thrive.

“For the most part, it looks good across the board,” Stute said. “There’s been some standing water, so in some fields we’re seeing some crops with some unevenness or nutrient deficiency, but overall things look really good.”

This time last year, the outlook was far gloomier as a severe lack of rain and the second-coldest July on record took their toll on crops, eventually delaying harvests across the state.

But things are looking up, so far. According to the July 6 Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report, average corn height in Wisconsin is 47 inches, which is 8 inches above the five-year average. Soybeans, oats and other crops are on track or ahead of schedule.

This time of year is especially critical for corn, which begins its pollination period in the next two weeks, Stute said. During that time, corn needs a steady amount of rain to draw from as it uses up its moisture reserves. An average of 1 inch a week is usually ideal for overall crop production.

While Rock County saw a bit of a dry spell in the last week, it was a welcome change. Some farmers needed to dry up standing water left over from June’s storms. Others were able to cut their second crop of hay, which also is ahead of last year’s pace.

While Stute said corn and soybeans usually hold out a little longer in a dry spell, crops such as alfalfa need more consistent rain.

Janesville farmer Bob Arndt—who grows corn, soybeans, peppermint, peas and hay, just to name a few—has been pleased with the performance of all his crops. Considering that Arndt’s land has a lighter, sandier soil than other Janesville farms, proper moisture is a constant concern. While Arndt has an irrigation system ready to handle a rain shortage, he hasn’t had to use it much this year.

So far, the only crop that concerns Arndt is peppermint, which soaks up moisture rapidly.

Despite the ideal conditions, Stute warns the sunny farm picture could change “fairly quick.” July’s typically high temperatures could pull moisture out of the ground without consistent rainfall.

Arndt knows what could happen, but he figures if he was prepared for last year, he’ll certainly be ready for any changes this year.

“If someone says they’re not lucky they’re lying because it’s a crap shoot,” Arndt said.

Last updated: 2:23 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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