North country corn harvest varying due to heavy spring rain; hay having good year

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Heavy spring rains may end up having a negative effect on this year’s corn harvest in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, while the conditions throughout the north country have been generally better for hay growing, according to county farm bureau presidents. Hay and corn are needed for feeding livestock and are two of the biggest harvests in the area.

“There was a significant amount of rain that came in May. It was so much rain that it didn’t allow crops to be planted at the normal planting time,” St. Lawrence County Farm Bureau President Dan L. Huntley said. “Ideally, the second or third week in May is when corn gets planted. If it’s planted then, you’re going to get outstanding corn crops, because you have June, July, August if everything’s normal.”

“A lot of farmers, because the field-working conditions were great late-April early-May, got on the ground and they planted,” Mr. Huntley said of farmers in St. Lawrence County. “There was so much rain mid-May, some of their corn … that they planted early didn’t germinate well.

“Because it was so wet, a lot of it rotted in the field,” he added. “That leaves a field spotty. All the kernels don’t germinate.”

“A tremendous amount” of corn that normally is planted in the last couple weeks of May ended up being planted the last couple of weeks of June, a whole month late, he said.

Now, those farmers who had to plant corn late are at the mercy of when the first killing frost hits. Mr. Huntley said there’s a big difference between a frost at 30 or 31 degrees and a frost at 25 degrees. He described the latter as a “killing frost,” meaning the plants die and that’s it. A few degrees warmer and the plants can survive and continue to mature.

“It’s yet to be determined. If there is an early September (killing) frost, there will be a very high number of acres of immature corn for this 2022 growing season,” Mr. Huntley said. “If we have a later-than-average killing frost, then we will have a large number of acres of corn that will have good maturity and quantity. But it’s all about the timing of a killing frost that we don’t know what that day will be.”

The difference between mature corn and immature corn is the quality. Immature corn is less nutritious for livestock. Mature corn has more of the nutrients they need, and with dairy farmers in particular, leads to higher yields.

In Jefferson County, Farm Bureau President Devon W. Shelmidine said the corn situation is similar to that in St. Lawrence County, however, “there’s a lot of variation out there.” He forecasts “an average year” for corn yields.

“Some farms got the corn in very timely before we got a little wet this spring. It got put in early and struggled getting the last in,” he said. “It got dry for a while. Some parts of the county are more dry than others.”

“All in all, I think the corn crop looks pretty good,” he added. “We’ve got to see (how) the fall’s going to finish out there.”

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