KNEE HIGH BY THE 4TH OF JULY

If you took a drive down a country road, you would probably see corn and a lot of it. That is my drive to work every morning. It is a part of life in central Illinois and a scene as familiar as the leaves turning in the fall. Without a doubt, those who have grown up in this region have also heard the phrase “knee-high by the 4th of July.” Let me tell you, I could get lost in a corn field more easily than find one that meets only my knee.

Once the standard for a good corn crop was that it should be as tall at the farmer’s knee by early July. This no longer applies to a modern crop for a variety of reasons ranging from a change in planting date, a change in seed genetics, fertilizer, and increased technology. A central Illinois cornfield in early July can completely conceal my head from view. Head high just doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.

Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden

With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden kernels but a taller crop that is definitely not just knee high. More recently, the traits can be combined with others such as drought and bug resistance in a genetically modified crop that is much hardier and can feed more than ever before.Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.

Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrate the 4th of July, watch the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you won’t be able to see over those big green leaves.

Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrated the 4th of July, I hope you watched the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you wouldn’t be able to see over those big green leaves.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn

2 thoughts on “KNEE HIGH BY THE 4TH OF JULY”

  1. So would you actually take “Knee high by the 4th of July” as a warning of a late crop now? Which is how I would take it, and there is a lot of corn out there that isn’t knee high at this point. We all know corn today can catch up with the right weather but how much will it take to make this years crop catch up?

    1. That’s a great question. I would argue that at least here in Illinois “knee high” doesn’t apply as much as it did anymore. For some other states, that might not be the case. I recently traveled by car to Montana and the growth in other states was not quite in line with Illinois. I would think that’s based on the severe weather they’ve been experiencing this spring. We’re lucky enough that we haven’t been as heavily affected. That being said, I haven’t seen any corn that’s too far behind. I’m optimistic that it will catch up! – Taylor

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