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Serving: WI
Matthew Ludtke stands in cornfield
OUTSTANDING IN HIS FIELD: Matthew Ludtke, 17, is a senior at Laconia High School in Rosendale, Wis. He is vice president of the Laconia FFA Chapter.

Knee-high by 4th of July?

Most corn in Wisconsin breaks the old rule of thumb this year, and fewer acres are planted, as well.

“Knee-high by the Fourth of July” is the old rule of thumb that farmers followed for decades, saying corn will be mature for grain harvest by the first killing frost in the fall if it is at least knee-high by July 4.

For much of the past 20 years, most of Wisconsin’s corn has been chest-high or higher by the Fourth of July, especially in the southern half of the state. This picture of Matthew Ludtke, who is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, shows him standing in corn that is more than knee-high on July 4. The cornfield is at the Bob and Josh Hiemstra dairy farm near Brandon, where Matthew has worked part time for the past three years.

However, a lot of the corn planted in Wisconsin was not knee-high by July 4 this year. Wisconsin farmers will be keeping their fingers crossed as they hope for a warm summer and fall and a late first killing frost to get a majority of the corn planted for grain (rather than silage) to maturity.

A very soggy spring with persistent rains kept many Wisconsin farmers from planting until an average of two and a half weeks later than normal. According to a meteorologist at WFRV-TV in Green Bay, northeastern Wisconsin received precipitation 54 out of 91 days between April 1 and July 1, which means it rained (or snowed in April) more often than every other day! I suspect that is the case across much of the Dairy State this year.

Because of how late much of the corn crop was planted, Wisconsin will not be setting any yield records this year. And according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there will be no record number of corn acres planted either.

According to NASS, corn planted for all purposes in Wisconsin is estimated at 3.8 million acres this year. This is down 100,000 acres from 2018 and is 250,000 acres fewer than farmers in the Dairy State intended to plant in March. Of the 3.8 million acres of corn planted, an estimated 2.8 million are forecast to be harvested for grain.

Soybean acreage in Wisconsin is estimated at 2.05 million planted, down 150,000 acres from last year and 100,000 acres fewer than March intentions, according to NASS.

Total dry hay expected to be harvested for 2019 is estimated at 1.4 million acres, up 40,000 acres from 2018. Alfalfa harvested acreage is forecast at 850,000, up 30,000 acres from last year. Other hay harvested is forecast at 550,000 acres, up 10,000 acres from last year.

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