CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Wisc. (WEAU) - As the saying goes, if corn fields are ‘knee-high by the fourth of July,’ it's a sign farmers are going to have a good season.
For some, this year's crop isn't quite measuring up to the old-time standard.
The problem stems from the longer winter this year.
Wisconsin saw snow going into May, meaning corn wasn't planted until late May or early June.
Plus, in recent weeks, excessive rainfall and severe storms made for some crop challenges.
“We're at the mercy of what Mother Nature’s gonna throw at us,” Chippewa County corn farmer Dave Johnson.
After a damaging drought last summer, farmers welcomed rain to return to normal.
“Rain is a good thing. You never want rain to shut off, because you don't know when it'll restart,” Johnson said.
But when raindrops and snowflakes wouldn't stop falling, and puddles grew larger, farmers had new concerns.
“Too much water, a lot of guys couldn't get into their stuff and they're not going to get their stuff planted. It's just too late now.”
Johnson said his latest planting was June 20, and he heard of others who waited until July 4. With some heavy soil damaged, he said up to 10 percent of his normal crop production could be lost.
“They're maybe going to start showing fertilizer deficiency, because all the fertilizer got washed away.”
As for the old saying, ‘Knee high by the fourth of July,’ Johnson said that's still a sign of healthy crops, but that this year, it varied from ankle to waist-high.
“Knee high corn by the 4th of July is ok yet. Yeah it seems like an antique statement, but … knee high corn by the 4th usually has a pretty good, you can make ‘er pretty good.”
“Some of these years when you have shoulder high, starts tossling by the 4th, it doesn't turn out to be as good either. Corn can grow too fast too.”
“The last 10 years, it's been chest high corn. Shoulder-high corn. So I don’t know. I'm happy where the corn's at for this time of year. I have some six inches tall. So early-day corn, it'll make it.”
As for what lies ahead, he said it all depends on the weather.
“The corn roots fanned out, because we had all the rain and nothing is rooted down.” “If it gets dry, it could get ugly.”
“I’ve been at this a number of years, and you don't know what the weather's gonna do. You just don't,” he said.
Johnson said for some farmers' crops, this year's rain could make things worse than last year's drought did.