"Knee-high by the 4th of July" - does it still hold its own?

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CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- “Knee-high by the 4th of July” is a phrase that has been a standard in the agriculture business for generations measuring the growth of corn. Some corn in the area is taller than knee-high, but does the saying still hold its own?

New genetics, different hybrids of corn and better treatments of crops have changed farming practices drastically in recent years. It’s also changed the way farmers look at the growth of their crops throughout the entire summer.

“I would say we’re behind from an average year if you take all the corn in the area,” Randy Woodruff of Chippewa Falls said.

Woodruff says the saying “knee-high by the 4th of July” isn’t really a thing anymore. He says his corn, that’s taller than knee-high, is actually a little bit behind schedule.

“That was an old figure of speech ‘knee-high by the 4th’ but now if you aren’t waist or shoulder-high by the 4th, you’re behind,” Woodruff, who is a board member of the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, said. “It really varies.”

Chippewa County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent, Jerry Clark, says the saying has kind of been debunked, but it was something widely-used by farmers.

“The old ‘knee-high by the 4th’ was typically something that was a standard of measurement that if we can get the corn to that point, with the rest of the growing season being normal, we should be able to have mature corn,” Clark said.

This spring, the planting day for Randy Woodruff of Chippewa Falls was about 10 days behind. The cold and wet spring weather didn’t help.

“We’re a little behind schedule because we had a late planting season,” Clark said. “A lot of spring rains have delayed planting. The cooler temperatures the last few weeks have kind of slowed down the actual progress.”

Woodruff says his corn will be fine at the end of the year. Others in the state and even in the surrounding counties could see smaller yields.

“Just coming through the eastern part, I think there’s some corn that’s 3 or 4 inches tall and there’s some that’s bare ground,” Woodruff said. “It really varies across the county. This year, we’ll end up with a crop, but not nearly as much as last year. Last year, we had an exceptional year. A lot of farms in the state had exceptional years last year.”

Woodruff says his fields might only yield two-thirds of the crop compared to last year’s, but he thinks overall, Wisconsin’s farming community should come out on a positive note.

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