Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

So much for knee-high by the 4th of July

The old adage ‘Knee-high by the Fourth of July’ brought reassurance to area farmers when it came to corn crops. This season has been anything but promising so far. An extremely wet Spring delayed seed plantings of both sweet corn and field corn in many parts of Upstate New York. Some farmers who took advantage of a dry day were thwarted by heavy, steady downpours that flooded fields and rotted the quickly emerging root systems of corn.

Corn is the backbone of Doug and Joan Allen’s Long Acre Farms on Eddy Road in Macedon. The Allens run the popular Amazing Maze, a corn maze that attracts thousands of visitors every year. In addition, sweet corn planting and sales is an integral part of their farm stand business.

“The rain caused all kinds of problems. It rained for 18 straight days after we planted the corn for the first time. All the rain soaked slowly in the ground. “Since there were no days for the soil to dry out in between, all of the seeds eventually rotted in the soil.” Allen explained.

As for the maze corn’s condition, while it is important to have drying days in between rain, too many dry days can also affect the outcome of the corn. Allen explained that the roots of the seeds sprout a few days after they get planted. If there is standing water on the field for too long, then the roots stay closer to the surface near the water. The dilemma is, when the rain dries up; the seed’s roots are too shallow in the ground. Therefore, the plant does not get the proper nutrients located deep in the soil needed to survive. That is why it is important for the plants to get ½ inch of rain every once in awhile, but not a complete washout.

The Allens replanted after field problems in the days following destroyed earlier work. Staggered sweet corn plantings every week are an effort to prolong the corn eating season. “Every time we’d see it starting to sprout, we planted some more.” Allen said.

On the Amazing Maze side of the operation, where field corn is used, the rain provided some setbacks and worried brows. About 25% of the maze corn had to be hand replanted, but the maze is a late Summer, Fall business and “We think it’s going to be okay,” added Doug.

Nearby farmers Bill and Gary Hammond, usually plant 1100 acres of field corn and soy beans. Field corn is used for ethanol production, cow feed, and other products.
While the Hammond Brothers Farm normally plants its crops in May, Bill Hammond said they had to wait until the beginning of June due to the wet weather. Field corn is harvested in the fall and has more time to recover from the rains, but since the planting season for corn was delayed, the Hammonds opted to forego and soybean crop this year and hope to recover some of their loss in crop insurance.

Lagoner Farms in Williamson had a little difficulty with their production, being about two weeks behind. “It has not been too bad.” Jake Lagoner said. “The moisture in the fields made it hard for us to go out to plant, but our fruit will be okay.”

Regional differences in plantings can be attributed to the type of soil and drainage available to a farmer. Another factor can be the fickle fact that a heavy rain can occur on one farm and leave a farm a half mile away high and dry.

Of course, with improved shipping, sweet corn, brought in from more southern states, appears on local grocery produce months before the local varieties. For those corn aficionados who prefer just-picked sweet corn, expect a later July start.