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Cold weather delays corn farmers' ability to begin planting

Wavrunek Dairy
Posted at 8:59 PM, Apr 29, 2022

DENMARK (NBC 26) — The cold, wet weather we've been experiencing this spring is impacting local farmers, pushing back the start of their season. Luke Wavrunek, the owner of Wavrunek Dairy in Denmark, says the weather has delayed his ability to plant and haul manure.

"That’s something that’s really kind of made us push everything back," Wavrunek said. "We kind of took advantage of some frozen ground to be able to get some manure out earlier but we haven’t been able to do any tillage or been able to plant any small grains or alfalfa yet this year.”

Wavrunek grows about 150 acres of corn. He says while normally he aims to have all his corn planted by mid-May, the weather has forced him start two to three weeks late.

“For corn, it’s really important getting it in as early as possible because corn has a maturity date so around our area, we normally want to have all of our corn planted by May 15th,” Wavrunek said.

Planting later means farmers will also have to harvest later. Wavrunek says the later farmers harvest into the fall, the more wet the fields become due to the shorter days and lack of sunlight. This, in turn, dries out the fields more quickly.

“The longer you go into the fall, the tighter the window gets, because the corn dries down a lot quicker so it’s hard to get an equal feed value for the cows,” Wavrunek said.

Aerica Bjurstrom, the regional dairy educator for UW-Madison Extension Kewaunee County says it’s an issue facing farmers across Northeast Wisconsin.

"By now, we would've had the corn probably just about ready to go in the ground, they would've been in the fields tilling and getting ready to plant. At this point, really nobody's out in the fields," Bjurstrom said.

She says the reason the cold weather makes it impossible to plant is due to the temperature of the soil.

"To even put corn in the ground, the soil needs to be 50 degrees at least and right now it’s probably in the mid 30s to maybe 40," Bjurstrom said.

She says the later farmers plant their corn, the less time it will have to grow.

“If you get it in the ground in June, you’re still going to get a corn crop but you’re just not going to get as much of a yield, it’s not going to be as tall, it’s not going to produce the same amount of kernels,” Bjurstrom said.