2018-07-05 / Outdoors

Crop report: Sweet corn could be early this summer


HAY IS pictured near Hohnke Road in Centerville Township. At least two county farmers will have their first cutting finished up by the end of this week. HAY IS pictured near Hohnke Road in Centerville Township. At least two county farmers will have their first cutting finished up by the end of this week. Knee-high by the Fourth of July?

No problem.

“It’s waist-high,” said Curt Kelenske, who farms about 13 acres of sweet corn along French Road in Centerville Township. “It’s growing vigorously. Corn does well in the heat, and when it got warm, it took right off.”

Kelenske said he planted on May 11 this year — the “absolute earliest he could” with the still-thawing soil.

Corn-growing conditions, which in a perfect world are hot and wet, have been solid since.

National Weather Service data recorded at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township show 2.26 inches of precipitation fell in June, which is just below the annual average. Average daily temperature was 65.7 degrees — about a degree warmer than usual.

The first three days of July were anything but average. The 79.9-degree average daily temperature was 10.3 warmer than average, and the 0.35 inches of rain on Sunday helped corn crops immensely.

“I think sweet corn is going to be early this year,” Kelenske said. “It’s crazy. I don’t know what’s going on. We planted two days later than last year, and last year we had sweet corn on the third of August. This year, it tasseled on the 10th of July. ... I don’t think it’s any hotter than last year, but we had no spring. We went right from heat to air conditioning — it was 80 degrees and 40 degrees. I thought we were going to be way late this year. I hesitated to plant my last variety. If it doesn’t come up by Labor Day, we just don’t sell a lot. I was debating to plant it, but we planted it, and that’s going to be just about perfect. Now I’m wondering if I’ll make it to Labor Day.”

Typically, after tasseling, sweet corn is ready for harvest within two to three weeks.

So, in other words, have your fridge stocked with butter by July 20.

HAY

Kelenske said his hay, which is sold to Idyll Farms and others, was cut a bit early this year.

“The tonnage was good, but the second cutting needs rain now,” he said. “We got a little rain (Sunday), but farther north they got more. South Leelanau County has been kind of dry.

“It needed that for sure, and the field corn was starting to curl up a little bit. We were out in the garden this morning and it soaked in well.”

Dairy farmer Terry Lautner, who among other crops grows field corn and hay, said the rain was “really beneficial.”

“We got about seven-tenths at my place here,” said Lautner, who farms in Elmwood and Solon townships. “That was good. It was getting dry. Some of it was starting to roll a little bit.”

Lautner was in the midst of his first cutting as of Monday.

“We’re a little bit behind, I would say, but not too far,” he said. “If we can get (the first cutting) done this week, we’ll be good.”

WHEAT

Kelenske said he anticipates smaller yields than usual due to the late spring.

“With wheat and oats, the sooner you get out the better,” he said. “It was just so cold that we couldn’t get out as early as we usually do, then it heated up and got dry. Those crops do well in the cool, wet weather in the spring.”

Lautner described his wheat as fair.

“Not exceptionally good but not exceptionally poor; average,” he said, “but I saw some nice-looking wheat on Eagle Highway.”

FIELD CORN

“Price is going to be pretty depressed, maybe around $3 a bushel,” Kelenske said. “We’re talking about half the yields everyone else gets. Most the people that raise it up here just raise it for themselves. You can’t compete with the yields from the Corn Belt area; we just don’t have the growing days.”

Optimal conditions, Lautner said, include heat and rain. He’d be happy with temps in the mid-80s and “rain every five days.”

“July and early August is the make-or-break,” he said. “It’s a wait-and-see kind of thing.”

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