The phrase, “knee-high by the fourth of July” was used as a measuring stick to predict a successful corn crop at a time when harvesting 40 bushels an acre was the standard. Today, with yields approaching 200 bushels on that same acre, corn is typically chest-high this time of year.
The dramatic increase in productivity is due to the increased mechanization, use of fertilizer and pesticides, and changes in corn-breeding techniques that have occurred, for the most part, since the Second World War. Better genetics make the days of knee-high corn in early July long gone, said Forrest Troyer, an adjunct professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois.
“We’ve made it much more stress tolerant,” he said.
Enter 2013, a spring and early summer filled with record high levels of rainfall on the heels of severe drought conditions that plagued the 2012 growing season. With a few weeks of drier conditions, the outlook for crops has improved significantly, according to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey.
Warmer and mostly drier conditions during the week ending June 30, 2013 allowed Iowa farmers to near completion of corn and soybeans planting, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Moisture levels for both topsoil and subsoil saw movement from the surplus rating into the adequate rating. Topsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 1 percent short, 66 percent adequate and 33 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 0 percent very short, 2 percent short, 67 percent adequate and 31 percent surplus.
With 99 percent of the corn crop in the ground, Iowa farmers have virtually wrapped up planting. Ninety-six percent of the corn crop has emerged, about 3 weeks behind normal. The warmer weather helped the condition of corn and the good to excellent rating increased 3 percentage points from last week. Corn condition was rated 3 percent very poor, 11 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 44 percent good and 13 percent excellent. Ninety-six percent of the soybean crop has been planted, about two weeks later than it normally takes soybeans to reach that mark. Eighty-nine percent of the soybean crop has emerged; 8 percentage points behind the five-year average.
Soybeans also benefitted from the warmer weather, with condition ratings improving slightly, to 3 percent very poor, 9 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 45 percent good and 11 percent excellent.
Farmers continued to make good progress harvesting alfalfa, and the 1st cutting of alfalfa now stands at 89 percent complete, 2 percentage points ahead of normal. Hay condition was rated at 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 54 percent good and 16 percent excellent. Pasture and range conditions rated 0 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 24 percent fair, 48 percent good and 24 percent excellent.