Farmers worry drought could affect corn and soybean crops

SAUK CITY, Wis. — Wisconsin farmers are used to dealing with unpredictable weather. There were wild temperature swings just a few weeks ago. And right now they really need some consistent rain.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows moderate and severe drought conditions across South Central Wisconsin.

“We’ve sort of been at an extended shortage of rain and so that lower sub-soil where the corn are trying to find that water, that’s really where we’re lacking the moisture right now,” said farmer Mitch Breunig.

Breunig said luckily his corn leaves at Mystic Valley Dairy farm are looking pretty healthy right now. But a couple weeks ago they almost froze. And now the combination of hot weather and a lack of rain isn’t good for them either.

Ideally, corn crops need about a half an inch to an inch of rain each week. But that isn’t happening right now.

Breunig said his corn plants are still young and don’t require as much water, but as they continue to grow, getting a good amount of consistent rain will be even more important.

“As a corn plant starts to pollinate, and that’ll be more like July, when it pollinates then it really needs water because then it starts to turn all that photosynthesis into the actual corn kernel that we’re going to sell,” said Breunig.

He said the timeline is a little different for soybeans. They really need to see rain when they’re flowering in August.

“It can’t be bone dry or we’re never going to get to August,  so we continually need that little bit or rain to keep things moving along,” said Breunig.

If some crops don’t make it, Breunig will feed the corn that does to his cows.

But for dairy farmers that buy feed, this drought will make feeding a cow more expensive. Breunig said the price of wheat, a feed alternative, will also go up.

He said the drought is coming at an especially good time to sell corn because both the need and price are high.

“It’s kind of a scary thing for me. As a dairy farmer, I know I have this sort of extra crop that I can feed my cows if I have it. However, I’d really like to sell the excess for a really good price. But it’s hard to sell it if you’re not sure if you’re going to have it for your cows,” said Breunig.

He said this year could be setting up to be similar to the drought in 2012, when he only got half of his usual corn yields.

But right now, there is potential for the weather to turn around and the crops to be successful.