Farm’s crops suffering from drought despite irrigation system

OCONOMOWOC — The severe drought is causing headaches for farmers throughout southeastern Wisconsin. That includes farms with irrigation systems.

John Koepke’s farm in Waukesha County has had an irrigation system since his grandfather had it installed when a dry stretch hit back in the 60s.

“The irrigation system is kind of a very good insurance policy to make sure we get a crop to harvest. It would be a real bummer if we didn’t have it,” Koepke said.

However, Koepke says he is still hoping for rain because there are some areas he can’t water with his set-up.

Koepke says his corn crops are doing okay right now, but they could be doing better.

“Our corn crop is very variable. It certainly all needs a very good rain. The stuff that’s under irrigation looks quite good, but there are some places we can’t irrigate that look pretty tough right now,” Koepke said.

About one-third of Koepke’s crop land is irrigated. They purchased two additional irrigation systems this spring, but all of that costs money.

“Usually, our operating costs are probably between $40 to $50 per acre, which an acre is the size of a football field. This year, we might be close to double that, so it will get more expensive this year,” Koepke said.

The Koepke farm has three wells that pump water that supplies the irrigation systems.

In the end, Koepke says it’s too early to gauge the total financial impact from the drought.

The USDA reports 19% of Wisconsin’s corn crop is rated as very poor, and 24% is rated as poor.

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