Forecast for the fields: Solid harvest expected this fall
Rock County farmers faced a unique set of challenges this growing season. Late planting, dry stretches, and a wind storm all added stress. Kyle Geissler reports.
LIMA TOWNSHIP Last year, Tom Hoffmann harvested 206.10 bushels of corn per acre.
As a result, Hoffmann, who farms about 1,000 acres in Lima Township, was one of the winners in the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association regional yield contest.
This year, he expects a solid harvest—but not as good as last year.
Hoffmann's predictions match those of other agribusiness professionals and farmers.
"The corn crop looks pretty good," said Bob Oleson, executive director of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. "We had a lousy spring and a warm, hot July."
July's heat and humidity helped the corn catch up.
But there's another side to that story.
The lack of rain meant corn crops struggled—especially crops grown on sandier soil. Such soils, which are common in the southern and western parts of Rock County, don't retain water well.
Local farmers faced additional challenges: A windstorm in early July flattened fields across two counties.
Much of that corn recovered but is now what farmers call "goose necked": The bottom of the stalk has a curve in it, making it difficult to harvest.
"We really won't know what impact that will have until we get into the field," said Randy Thompson, UW Extension dairy and livestock agent.
In addition, July's heat meant it was a little too warm during pollination, Hoffmann said. A continuous stretch of hot days and nights can affect the size of ears.
More recently, however, corn and other crops have been helped by timely rains. Through August 23, the Janesville area has received 2.17 inches of rain. The average for August is 3 inches, according to Gazette records that date back to 1929.
But again, there's another side to the story.
"It really depends on where you are," said Jim Stute, UW Extension crops and soils agent. "The northeast area of Rock County is really dry. In East Troy, around where I am, we've had about an inch of rain a week."
And as all farmers know, everything can change in the weeks—or days—leading up to harvest.
So while a good harvest might be predicted for any or all crops, it's never really safe until it's in the bin.