Rain offers some hope for crops

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Friday, July 20, 2012

— Hooray.

There’s really no other way to start a story about the rain that fell Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

In total, 1.76 inches of rain fell between 7 a.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday, according to official readings taken at the Janesville Wastewater Treatment Plant on the city’s southwest side.

“We still need a lot of rain,” said Jim Stute, UW Extension crops and soils agent. “But it did help.”

The rain was not a drought buster, nor will it rescue the entire corn crop, Stute said.

Fire officials are likewise leery. The Rock County Fire Officers Association said its advisory burn ban is still in effect, despite the rain.

Officials believe the danger from outdoor burning remains high, said Edgerton Fire Chief Keith Demrow, the association’s president.

The fear is that even small controlled burns could quickly spread out of control.

Stute said the drought has already stopped some corn from pollinating.

Corn generally pollinates in an eight-day period between July 10 and Aug. 1, he explained. When it pollinates depends on hybrid, planting date and a variety of other factors.

Corn suffering from water and heat stress that attempted to pollinate earlier this month is done, and probably is only good for grinding into silage. Many fields were so dry that the plants just died.

However, some fields might recover—not to the point of generating a full yield but at least to something usable.

The rain will help soybean fields, but even more rain will be needed in August when the plants begin to set pods.

Even so, smaller plants will translate to smaller yields, Stute said.

“Even if we have ideal rainfall from now on, yields will be down.

More immediately, the rain will boost the current cutting of hay, and that will help farmers battle rising animal feed costs.

Doug Rebout farms with his family near Janesville. The planted 2,600 acres of corn, milk 130 cows and have about 570 other animals including heifers, calves and steers that they finish.

About 400 to 500 acres of their corn are worthless.

“Those acres are done, we’re going to chop them up and leave them on the ground,” Rebout said. “But we’re feeling real good: We’ll have feed for our animals and will be able to fill our (corn) contracts.”

Still, the Rebouts are expecting a reduced yield—only about 80 bushels an acre.

Last updated: 4:49 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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