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Dry spell offsets wet start for crops
Corn crops outside of Monroe suffer from a recent dry spell under a strong sun Monday. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - What started out as a bumper year for area crops has taken a turn for the worse as dry weather continues.

Cool and wet weather got the growing season off to a strong start, according to Green County Agricultural Agent Mark Mayer. "It was the Garden of Eden in June," he said, and crops looked as good as he can remember over the past 30 years.

June saw about 10 inches of rain, about 5 inches more than normal. But by the middle of July, "the rain shut off." July had about 2 inches of rain, compared to a normal 4, and there's been virtually no precipitation in August - save a quick shower in Monroe Monday afternoon.

Technically, Green County is not included in the most recent "abnormally dry" areas of the state published by the U.S Drought Monitor last week. Much of Lafayette County is included in the "abnormally dry" swath that stretches from the southeast corner diagonally up to the Green Bay and Door County areas. But Mayer said Green County "probably should be added to that" and likely will be when condition reports are updated for this week.

By way of good news, small grains fared well in May and June, providing good yields in wheat and oats, he said.

And the first, second and third cuttings of hay earlier this summer showed good yields which should offset a questionable fourth cutting. "We probably expect to see above average yields" because of those strong first three cuttings, Mayer said.

The concern now is yield reduction for corn and soybeans.

On the positive side, corn had good pollination due to the adequate moisture early on, Mayer said. By the time July rolled around, the area was looking at record yields for corn and soybeans.

Soybeans in the area are finishing up flowering and setting pods. Beans, which have a longer reproductive stage, are more tolerant of the dry weather, but fields in shallow soils are beginning to show signs of stress, with leaves flipping over to conserve moisture.

Any rain in the next few days will help soybeans more than corn because they are in the pod-setting phase, he said.

But every day that passes without rain can reduce corn yields by 3 percent to 4 percent.

There is still potential for good yields, Mayer said. The key will be to get rain, and fast.

"We really need some rain," he said. "The sooner the better."