Janesville32.8°

Corn hit the hardest during Monday storm

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
July 14, 2011
— Leroy Oliver said it looked like a steamroller went over the 1,800 acres of field corn he has along County A west of Janesville.

While it was mostly unbroken, almost all of the corn he planted this year was knocked completely flat by the 60 to 70 mph winds that ripped through the area when a severe storm hit Monday morning.


"It got everything I farmed within a four-mile stretch, there. And it wasn't just me. It was everyone's fields all around there. All the neighbors," Oliver said.


By Wednesday, Oliver said his corn was struggling to right itself, with plants straining toward the sun.


Yet his crop, and wide swaths of other cornfields throughout Rock County, now bear the telltale signs of wind damage: They're marked by long stands of leaning, goose-necked corn stalks, some of the which have roots partially exposed like half-yanked molars.


"There will be some yield damage out there, that's for sure. That happens any time you pull some of the roots out," Oliver said.


UW Extension dairy and livestock agent Randy Thompson was one of several local agricultural officials who drove through Rock County on Tuesday to survey the havoc wreaked by Monday's storm.


Thompson said the damage was severe and widespread, but it was limited mostly to corn blown flat, rather than being snapped off by the wind. He said other crops, such as wheat and soybeans, were mostly spared.


There were no estimates available on acreage of corn damaged in Monday's storm, but Thompson said the worst of the blow-downs seem to have been concentrated in fields along Avalon Road south of Janesville, with significant damage to corn also along the Highway 14 corridor west of Janesville and in Plymouth Township.


"It wasn't isolated. Often you see with storms a narrow band of damage. In comparison, here, it was pretty widespread," Thompson said.


UW Extension crops agent Jim Stute said the storm damage to local corn is some of the worst and most widespread he's seen.


He said it could mean a significant hit to yields, but he noted there was one saving grace: The timing of the damage could have been much worse.


Stute said because of delayed planting and a cool start to the growing season this year, most corn in the area is still in middle stages of its growth cycle. That means that blown over plants still should have time to right themselves before they start to mature and develop ears.


But he said some fields, particularly ones in flat, wide-open areas, had swaths of corn plants knocked flat in all directions. In those spots, downbursts of wind had laid the plants in tangled heaps.


Stute said those plants could have a harder time springing back up. And when the plants do recover, they'll likely be strained from having been blown over. That, coupled with exposed roots from the blow-down, will likely be that main factors that would lead to yield loss, he said.


Still, Stute said blown down corn is almost always better than plants snapped off by wind.


When corn stalks are broken, there's no chance the plant will recover.


Stute said he remembers a storm in 1999 with winds that left telephone poles scattered like jackstraws.


The wind laid the corn flat, too, but it recovered.


"It looked terrible, but it ended up standing up again," Stute said. "You didn't end up seeing too much impact."


Prior to Monday's storms, the biggest concern for growers was the dry weather, which Oliver said had started to put crops under stress.


"I don't know what's worse. It was so dry, and we needed the rain. It just seems that this year, the only time we get rain is when it storms. But that's life—everything could be worse," he said.


Oliver said he believes weather patterns in the next few weeks will determine whether blown down corn in the area makes a comeback. He's hoping for continued rain—without wind.


"The quality of the corn, we probably won't know. We'll just have to wait until harvest time," he said.



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