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Published September 10, 2009, 04:44 PM

Cool growing season still good overall in Pierce County

Although cool weather has slowed the process, crop growth in Pierce County holds promise this season.

By: Bill Kirk, Pierce County Herald

Although cool weather has slowed the process, crop growth in Pierce County holds promise this season.

“The crops are a little bit behind,” Soil Conservationist Jon Krauss of the county’s land conservation department said Wednesday.

Despite planting being mostly on time this spring, the unusually cool summer (particularly July) is contributing to a fall during which Krauss hopes there’s not too early a frost. Nonetheless, the corn crop appeared “pretty dented,” he said as an example.

“The weather last week was bringing it on,” he said about a long overdue spurt of warmth and rain, adding, “Any time you have rain, then heat, it’s bound to grow.”

Comparing rainfall this year with last on his 125 acres of cropland approximately a mile north of the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery, the conservationist said he’d received 19.15 inches between May 3 and Aug. 20, while he’d gotten 13.45 inches as of Aug. 27 in 2008. That’s nearly six inches more this season, but he acknowledged much of the overall total came last month, listing four-and-a-half inches at his place on Aug. 7, three inches on Aug. 14, 1.6 inches on Aug. 19 and 1.1 inches on Aug. 20.

A downside to the awaited rain has been voiced by soybean growers, he said. The August wet spell brought on white mold, which hurts their crop. Morning moisture is furthering the mold as well. Spraying fungicide on the plants earlier apparently didn’t help prevent the problem.

“Soybeans have a lot that can go wrong,” he said he’s concluded.

As for the corn, Krauss explained the milk line has to go all the way down to the tip after denting. It takes three weeks from hard dent to black layer. So he’d want to see at least that much more time expire before any frost occurs.

This year’s first crop of hay was a “little lighter” than normal, said the part-time dairy farmer, whose 100 acres in hay far exceeds his 20 acres in corn. However, the second and third crops of hay were better, and the fourth crop has especially been an improvement.

With few storms this season, Pierce County has avoided hail damage, he said. Neighboring St. Croix County has had a few spots with hail.

He was also aware some farmers here have already started chopping.

Read more in the print version of the Herald Sept. 16.