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Time "rains" out for planting corn

July 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Relentless rains for yet another week spelled headaches for many Wisconsin farmers. Corn planters were unable to roll, cut hay lay rotting in the fields, and weeds grew unchecked.

According to the July 1 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", southern Wisconsin received rain nearly every day last week. In some areas, the ground was already so saturated that even a small amount of precipitation left water standing in the fields.

In other areas, the rain simply poured down with some in the state-wide network of reporters measuring up to 11 inches of rain for the last week of June.

"More rain last week created more havoc for farmers in this area. Fields are extremely wet," a Taylor County reporter said.

In Portage County, many farmers are destroying fields trying to get some hay made in the mud. "It only rained four days last week," the local reporter remarked.

Farmers must now make an appointment to sell their cattle at the market because so many are being shipped, he said. "Many of our dairy producers have been unable to plant or make hay because it's so wet. They were already short from last year's drought, so they are forced to dump cattle."

Florence County also had a hot, humid, wet week with nearly three inches of rain from Wednesday through Saturday, while Kenosha County reported corn and soybeans under water and fieldwork at a standstill.

Between 4-10 inches of rain drenched Green County by Sunday, causing flooding and some corn and bean crop loss. However, the reporter observed, the rains will provide excellent yields for second cutting hay that farmers will start harvesting when the soils dry out.

In Rock County, where six inches of rain had fallen in Evansville by Wednesday night, farmers were dealing with flooding and ponding, yield losses and hay-making challenges. "What a difference one year makes," the reporter commented.

It stacked up to a soggy month that missed the record by a whisker. The Madison weather station recorded 10.86 inches of rain in June, the report noted, only 0.07 inches behind a record high of 10.93 inches in June 2008. Nearly half of those recorded inches fell last week.

Flooding and water damage to crops was reported across the state, and particularly in southwest and south-central Wisconsin.

In Burnett County, some oats, corn and soybeans were drowned out, while the rain was a hit-and-miss affair across Marinette County, leaving some areas rather wet and others nearly dry and hoping for rain.

In Waupaca County, the excessive moisture and humidity was blamed for fungal disease in the berries.

For most Wisconsin farmers, the rainy week ran the calendar out for planting corn. Acres intended for corn will now be switched to soybeans or other forage crops whenever possible, reporters said, while some low-lying areas will be left fallow.

There are a lot of unplanted acres in Ozaukee County. "It's just too wet and too late," the reporter said.

Dry hay has also been extremely difficult to make. Reporters spoke of cut hay rotting in the fields and hay stands damaged by machinery.

In Chippewa County, where some acres will go unplanted because the soil is too saturated, dry hay simply cannot be made. "We are making haylage and bale wrapping if we can," the reporter said. "There are not many sunny days."

In Clark County, planters and forage harvesters were on the move, but lower ends of the fields were still not being planted. There will be some replanting of corn and soybeans in areas of the fields with low populations, the reporter noted.

High weed pressure was reported in many areas, as weed control efforts were hampered by the wet conditions.

Statewide, there were 2.8 days suitable for field work over the week ending June 30 at 7 a.m.

Precipitation totals ranged from less than an inch in Green Bay to almost 5 inches in Madison and above elsewhere.

Surplus topsoil moisture now affects 43 percent of the state, quite the reverse from last year when droughty conditions meant only 3 percent of the state had surplus issues.

Across the reporting stations, average temperatures for the week ending June 30 were 1-7 degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 80-82 degrees, with La Crosse topping out at 89, while average low temperatures ranged from 63-66 degrees.

"It's amazing how much faster crops grow with heat and sun," the reporter from St. Croix County observed.

In Florence County, where the corn "finally" popped, there is still a lot of first crop hay to cut and most of it is getting very mature.

By June 30, 77 percent of the state's first cutting alfalfa had been harvested, compared to the five-year average of 93 percent. Yield reports varied from average to good, reporters said, but quality was poor due to delays in cutting.

Grant County pointed out the rainfall has taken away any aftereffects of last year's drought. "Some crops are underwater," the reporter observed.

Fields are waterlogged and nitrogen has leached, making a lot of fields start to yellow, he added. Alfalfa that was cut and rained on several times may be abandoned and blown back on the field.

Statewide, 96 percent of the state corn crop had been planted by June 30 and 92 percent had emerged, compared to the five-year average of 100 percent in and up. The plants averaged 20 inches tall, compared to the five-year average of 30 inches. Most reporters said corn would be knee-high by the Fourth.

In some areas, corn in low-lying sections was yellowing or getting drowned out.

In Ozaukee County, the corn was progressing very well, except for the low areas. Poor germination is also evident in some low areas - too cold and wet, the reporter noted. The late-planted corn has a long way to go, he added.

By the end of June, soybeans were 93 percent planted and 85 percent emerged, compared to all in and all up over the past five years. Beans were also showing moisture stress in low-lying areas.

Oats were 46 percent headed, far behind the five-year average of 71 percent. Some reporters commented that late oats may be planted for forage where corn and soybean planting has been prevented.

Winter wheat was turning in Fond du Lac and Kewaunee counties, while cranberries were blooming in Oneida and Portage counties. In Trempealeau County, the early pea harvest was well underway.

In Racine County, where first crop hay was decent when it could be made between the rains, crops are looking good. There are a few drowned-out spots in the fields, but overall good stands, the reporter commented.

Statewide, corn was rated 30 percent in fair condition and 60 percent good to excellent, while soybeans were rated 30 percent in fair condition and 65 percent good to excellent.

Only 2 percent of the state's pastures were rated in poor condition, while 11 percent were fair and 87 percent were in good to excellent condition.

The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress 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.

It is compiled at the Wisconsin field office in Madison by state statistician Greg Bussler.

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