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Corn crop basks under the hot sun

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
This year's corn crop is head and shoulders above Wisconsin farmer Jeff Schumacher. Each year the Fall Creek farmer measures his corn crop on the Fourth of July as part of a family tradition. With great growing weather, this year's crop has surpassed even the year before.

Showers that moved across Wisconsin on Tuesday brought much needed moisture to cornfields in some areas of the state as the hot, humid weather continued across much of the U.S.

This year's corn crop is nearly two weeks ahead of last year's crop, with most fields passing the "knee-high by the Fourth of July" benchmark back in June. According to the USDA's Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report, the week ending on July 5, 2020, was rated an excellent week for crop growth with highs in the 80s and 90s.

While most of the state has adequate soil moisture, meteorologists see the trend of above normal temperatures continuing through July.

"It's very widespread and it's going to be very long lasting," said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground and now a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections. "It's not a record-breaking heat wave, but it is notable for its persistence."

Across Wisconsin, temperatures averaged six to eight degrees above normal with LaCrosse in western Wisconsin averaging 80 degrees. Central and northwest Wisconsin and the southern part of the state recorded 1 to 3 inches of precipitation last week while south central and east central Wisconsin recorded just under a quarter of an inch.

Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Matthew Rosencrans said next week, Wisconsin could be battling it out with the Southeast for the nation's hottest feels-like temperature — which factors in humidity — with heat indices pushing past 100.

A giant ridge of high pressure, parking hot air, is stuck in the Southwest and extends farther east that usual, blocking cold fronts from moving in, Rosencrans said. And the jet stream, a river of air that keeps weather moving, has retreated to Canada, so nothing is pushing the heat along. On top of that, dry weather feeds the heat in a "vicious feedback cycle," he said.

Dennis Todey, director of USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub, told Brownfield Ag News that the corn is transpiring quite well at this point—it has the moisture available—so those are both going to work against us.”

Todey says if current conditions continue much longer, corn yields will likely be impacted. While pollination isn't a concern yet, the continued hot spell may impact grain size and grain field - potentially decreasing yield.

Across Wisconsin, 2% of the corn crop was silking, 10 days ahead of last year, with the crop being rated 79% good to excellent statewide. According to the National Agricultural Summary, 10% of the nation's corn acreage had reached the silking stage, with 71% of the nation's corn acreage rated good to excellent.

Rows of raked hay dry in the morning sun, waiting to be chopped for feed. To date, over 40% of the state's second crop of hay has been cut, a week ahead of last year.

Forty percent of the soybean acreage was reported to be in bloom, nearly 3 weeks ahead of last year. Just 1% of the crop was setting pods. The crop condition remained unchanged from last week, with 79% of the crop rated good to excellent.

Fields of winter wheat were already turning color in 65% of planted acres. The crop is two weeks ahead of last year with 76% rated in good to excellent condition.

While corn field basked in the hot sun, choppers and mowers were criss-crossing hay fields as the second cutting was well underway. Farmers were a week ahead of last yaer with 38% of the second crop down. This year's crop is rated 75% in good to excellent condition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.