Extreme Drought Threatens Wisconsin Corn Crop

Jul 07, 2023

By Jenny Peek

A statewide dry spell is making farmers across Wisconsin uneasy about the prospect of their crops.

As of July 4, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed much of the state is experiencing severe or moderate drought — with most of Dane County dealing with extreme drought.

Derek Orth owns Orthridge Jerseys in Fenimore. He's also on the board of Grant County's Farm Bureau. 

He told Wisconsin Public Radio's "The Morning Show" his corn and alfalfa crops took longer than usual to germinate. Corn he planted on June 1 just recently broke ground.

"The corn didn't come out of the ground until this past weekend," he said. "Usually, corn in June takes five or six days to germinate, and this took 35 days. So ... it's kind of scary."

July is a key month for corn pollination, making the next few weeks all the more critical for the crop. 

That's according to Jason Otkin, an associate research professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in drought.

"We're entering a really important time of the year now for the corn crop — pollination in July is so critical. So if we stay dry, and if we get really unlucky and have a big heat wave, that's going to do quite the number on the corn crop," he told "The Morning Show."

Kevin Krentz, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and a dairy farmer in Berlin, said current conditions are leading to a lot of stress among the ag industry.

"Farmers have put a lot of their time, a lot of dollars, and a lot of work into these crops just to watch them slowly fade away and not be able to do anything but hope and pray for rain," Krentz told "The Morning Show."

He mentioned today's crops are more drought-resistant than those used 30 or more years ago. No till practices and cover crops have also helped with extreme conditions. 

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