SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - It has already been a tough year for farmers, but some corn farmers are saying the real disaster could come in just a couple of weeks as the pollination process beings.
As the extreme heat leaves the Madison area, it has left behind a parched landscape thirsting for rain.
Concerns over that lack of rain are now flooding the minds of farmers.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released the latest conditions for southern Wisconsin on July 3.
The map showed south central Wisconsin, including parts of Sauk and Columbia counties, as being abnormally dry. And areas south of that, including Dane and Rock counties, are now approaching severe drought status.
Jerry Bradley didn't think he'd need his insurance policy when he signed the paperwork in April, but with moderate drought conditions at his farm outside Sun Prairie, he's thankful to have it.
Bradley, who grows both corn and soybeans, said corn is the most immediate concern in the drought.
"If we don't get some rain (before) the tassels shoot out to pollinate, it'll be a total loss," said Bradley, of the pollination process that will begin within two weeks. "Right now, I'd be happy with half a crop."
July has continued the record-setting pace set in June, when Madison recorded just 0.31 inch of rain. By comparison, 1976 was one of the worst summers in recorded history at more than 4 inches, WISC-TV reported.
In meteorological terms, summer is defined as June-August.
The corn crop now has a white sheen across most of Bradley's land, indicating that it's dying without rain, he said.
"It was off to a good start. We had a great spring and things looked really good, but then the faucets shut off," he said. "It'll be the worst I've seen in my lifetime if we don't get any rain in the next couple weeks."
Soybeans take up the other half of Bradley's 1,500 or so acres. That crop is tougher, and will still produce good yields if it rains in the next month, Bradley said.
While Bradley said he carries crop insurance, there will be a significant financial hit during this year's harvest, Bradley said. But other farmers don't carry insurance because it's expensive, he said.
"If you look at the number you pay for insurance versus the risk if you have a total wipeout, well, all of a sudden that policy doesn't look as expensive anymore," he said.
The crop concerns will push up prices at the grocery store significantly, University of Wisconsin Extension crops and soils agent Lee Jennings has warned.
The reason is that many products consumers buy are made with either corn or soybeans, Bradley said.
"Maybe Mother Nature has a way of trying to even herself out, who knows?" he said. "Maybe we'll start getting an inch of rain next week, every week, and something could be salvaged then."
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