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Farmers catching up between rainstorms

June 10, 2014 | 0 comments


The first week in June was a roller coaster for Wisconsin farmers. It began with heavy rain across much of the state that hammered fields and put the brakes on fieldwork. It then switched to sunshine and warmth that propelled planting and haying progress close to or above some five-year averages.

According to the June 9 "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report," downpours across the north of the state caused erosion and crusted soil in recently tilled fields, hampering crop emergence.

Precipitation totals ranged from 0.55 inches in Milwaukee to 2.91 inches in Madison. It was a deluge in Manitowoc County, where between 2 and 5 inches of rain fell on the first two days of the new month.

Kewaunee County also got drenched with between 2 and 4 inches.

"At this time of year, this amount of water can be absorbed quickly with the heat, sunshine and wind," said a local reporter. "The problem with the rain that fell was that a lot fell in a short period of time. It caused a hard crust to form on some of the fields and will cause emergence problems for those crops planted just before the rain fell."

A brief shower would help the ground to soften so the crops could poke through, he noted.

Trempealeau County also reported some emergence issues in corn and beans due to rain-crusted soils, while Columbia County has a few low-lying areas still under water that may need to be replanted.

Western Burnett County also got rain it didn't need. "The soil is saturated with rainfall in that area," the reporter relayed. "We anticipate many acres of prevent plant."

Significant soil erosion was also reported in Pierce County on heavily tilled corn and soybean fields. It was the worst on fields that were land rolled, which caused greater runoff.

Skies turned sunny for the rest of the week with 4.7 days suitable for fieldwork, giving farmers the welcome opportunity to plant and make hay.

The first week of June was warmer than usual with average temperatures marked 4 to 7 degrees above normal. Average highs ranged from 77 to 80 degrees, with Madison topping out at 88 and Green Bay at 86, while average lows were marked between 57 to 62 degrees.

By week's end, the state's topsoil moisture level had dropped to 21 percent surplus, down a tad from the previous week's 22 percent surplus. The excessive moisture has boosted crop condition, the report observed, but was preventing farmers from making dry hay.

In Taylor/Price County, the number of unplanted fields was dwindling quickly and manure pits were finally getting emptied, with first crop hay taken off and some other forage crops planted on fields with manure. "Pastures and grass fields look very good, but topsoil moisture is still high making lower fields a real challenge," the reporter added.

Hay numbers

Statewide, the amount of hay in good to excellent condition rose from the previous week's 81 percent to 88 percent. Pasture conditions improved from 81 percent to 84 percent in good to excellent condition.

In Trempealeau County, the steady rains and warmer weather has dramatically improved pastures and hay crops. The alfalfa quality is going down, the reporter said, but tonnage will be up.

The rain sidelined farmers in Vernon County until midweek, when they kicked haying into high gear. Lots of first crop hay came off with very good yields, before another shot of rain on Saturday dumped between 1 to 3 inches. "The vegetable crops are doing well, but all crops could use some heat," the reporter added.

By June 8, the state's first cutting of alfalfa was 49 percent complete, up from 22 percent the previous week and closing fast on the five-year average of 55 percent.

Chippewa County reported good yields and quality, while Taylor/Price Counties put feed values of the incoming crop at average or above. Haying was in full swing in Columbia County, where some "excellent" haylage was harvested.

The growth of alfalfa across Kewaunee County has been impressive, thanks to the rain and cooler temperatures. "But the quality may not be high as most producers would like, at least according to the scissors cutting test results conducted over the past few weeks," that reporter said.

In Oneida County, where 0.035 inches of rain fell during the week, early cranberry varieties are near hook stage and late varieties are in the bud break stage. Insect pest scouting showed large numbers of brown spanworm, which received speedy treatment.

Corn status

Farmers plugged 92 percent of the state's corn crop into the ground, not too far behind the five-year average of 95 percent and now riding well above last year's mark of 80 percent.

Corn planting continued in Chippewa County, especially on some hay and winter rye harvested fields. Across the state's northeast district, 82 percent of corn acreage was planted with the east central district at 83 percent. On the high end, the southwest district had 99 percent of their corn in, the south-central had 98 percent and the southeast had 97.

By the end of the first week in June, 75 percent of the corn had emerged, well above the previous week's mark of 52 percent and last year's 58 percent. The five-year average is 81 percent, which echoes the amount of this year's corn in good to excellent condition.

Other crops

Soybeans were marked 82 percent planted, a single point behind the five-year average of 83 percent and far above last year's mark of 53 percent. By Sunday morning, 57 percent had emerged, even with the five-year average, but well above the previous week's 28 percent and last year's 26 percent. The crop was ranked at 81 percent in good to excellent condition.

Oats were 95 percent planted and 86 percent emerged, compared to the five-year averages of 98 percent planted and 95 percent emerged. Four percent of the crop was heading, compared to 1 percent last year and the five-year average of 12 percent.

Statewide, the condition of oats was rated 83 percent good to excellent condition.

In the winter wheat fields, 37 percent of the crop was heading, compared to 14 percent the previous week. The amount in good to excellent condition was pegged at 68 percent. While the crop, by and large, was doing well in Kewaunee County, a few more poor stands were worked up and planted to another crop.

As of June 8, 95 percent of the state's potato crop was in the ground and 94 percent of spring tillage was complete. That's 10 points above last year's mark and just two points shy of the five-year average.

The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the National Weather Service.

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