Knee high

After a dip in the swimming pool to cool off from soaring temps in the 90s, JR and Robbie Hine are pictured in one of their family’s cornfields west of Wessington Springs to see if the old farming adage, “knee-high by the Fourth of July” will ring true this year. It looks like most Jerauld County crops are on pace with the saying but some say that the standard that originated generations ago doesn’t apply today because of drastic improvements in crop genetics and other modern farming practices. Most farmers say they expect their corn plants standing somewhere between waist to chest-high instead of knee-high on the Fourth of July. 

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday with fireworks, parades and get-togethers with family and friends, area farmers may be looking to an old saying to help benchmark their corn crop. Most everyone has heard the adage, “knee-high by the Fourth of July,” meaning if your corn is up to your knee, the crop is on pace to do well. Right? 

 Some say that the standard that originated generations ago doesn’t really apply today. With the drastic improvements in crop genetics and other modern farming practices, corn plant growth rapidly takes off once the temperatures rise and the right amount of moisture is available. Farmers in South Dakota are also planting earlier than they once did because of plant capabilities, allowing them to use seed with longer maturity dates that provides the potential for higher yields, plus producers can control weeds with new technology.

Driving around the Jerauld County countryside this weekend, it looks like the crop, although well beyond knee-high, isn’t as tall as it has been on July 4 of recent years. Area farmers say a cool, damp spring with late-arriving heat and sun is to blame.

Even as this year’s crop seems to be a little late to pop, it’s clear that the average height has increased steadily through the years. So why does the knee-high line seems to stick around? Some say they remember their grandfather saying it. Others say it’s simply because it has a nice rhyme to it.

When it comes down to it, maybe that's the real value of the phrase – that it has been shared and passed down through the generations because it's catchy and evokes a little nostalgia. Even though it's not really accurate anymore, the rhyme lives on.

Knee-high corn or otherwise, hoping you and yours enjoy a happy and safe Fourth of July,

Kristi Hine 


True Dakotan