July 2, 2008

Knee High in July — a Tough Year for Corn

By Chris Hubbuch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 2--Even after a late start and the wettest June on record, area crops are behind but beginning to rebound.

"We'll have knee high by the fourth of July," said Bill Heider, who farms in the town of Hamilton in La Crosse County. "But on a good year, we're doing shoulder high." Some of his corn in the La Crosse River valley already is to mid-thigh and lush green. Not all farmers are so lucky.

In Wisconsin, the average corn height Monday was 21 inches, compared with 41 inches at the same time last year. In the West Central region, which includes La Crosse County, the average height was 17 inches, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture's statistics service.

Because of an unseasonably cold spring, Wisconsin farmers had one of the latest plantings in the last decade. Then record rainfalls June 9 and 10 flooded many fields and washed out others.

But warm, sunny weather in the second part of the month has provided a late growth spurt.

"Corn has made a significant recovery in the last week or so," said Ben Bosshart of the Farm Service Agency office in La Crosse County. "A lot of our fields were looking really yellow."

Even so, Bosshart and others expect crop yields to be down this year. That will mean missing out on record corn and soy prices while absorbing record fertilizer and fuel expenses.

"It's really difficult at this stage to judge the impact, but it's not going to be positive," Bosshart said.

Although the heavy rains caused some erosion, La Crosse County didn't have the same scope of damage as some neighboring counties, where flooding resulted in short, stressed plants or total crop losses, according to the USDA. Nor was the damage anything like what Bosshart recently saw while driving through Nebraska and Iowa.

Corn on the ridge tops is significantly shorter than that in the valleys because the heavy clay soils hold more water and slowed the plants' emergence, Bosshart said.

"I think they're going to pull out of it and have at least a decent crop," Bosshart said, "barring any unusual things."

Chris Hubbuch can be reached at [email protected] or (608) 791-8217.


To see more of the La Crosse Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.lacrossetribune.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.