Rain a Real Boost for Farmers

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Wednesday's downpour soaked vendors and their customers at the Farmers’ Market, but many welcomed the darker skies and wetter sidewalks after weeks of hot, dry conditions.

Farmers say the rain offered crops a real boost. If you compare growing seasons, April through today, 2005 is the driest on record.

Raindrops keep falling. Farmer Dick Green says the rain "puts a smile on a farmer's face."

Another local grower, Jay Vree, says, "I've got some cracks in the field that are starting to get pretty deep."

Vree is a vendor at the Dane County Farmers' Market. He says he will sacrifice sales at a slower, soggier market day than go without this much needed rain.

"I haven't heard one complaint about the rain," he says of other vendors.

Vree has about 15 acres of sweet corn, and the downpour comes at a critical time.

"If we didn't get rain this week, two to three weeks from now there'd be no corn," he says.

A lack of rain also could take a bite out of Dick Green's apple orchard.

"To get an apple that's nice, large and juicy, you need good rainfall," Green says.

But crops still have a way to go.

"There are fields that are killed, all the plants are dead," corn agronomist Joe Lauer says.

The UW professor studies corn production.

"This rain is a million dollar rain," Lauer says.

He says a trip across the state shows corn fields under serious stress.

"We're in this pollination phase where if those kernels don't get fertilized, they won't develop and no matter how much rain we get in about two weeks, nothing is going to happen," Lauer says.

He says farmers still need an inch of rain per week for the next couple of months, but today's rain gets the crop through the next three to four days.

"It'll help younger corn for future markets," Vree says of his crop.

Which makes future markets look even brighter than today's.

Lauer says, "We can still have a good year."

Joe Lauer looked at yields from four of the driest years, the worst being 1988, but 1976 and 1980 saw very little rain in July, then rain in August and September. Yields in those years were between one and three percent of the rolling average.

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