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A farmer in northeastern Wisconsin chugs through another cutting of hay, helping push local levels to 93 percent of second cutting and 25 percent of third harvested by Aug. 5.<br />

A farmer in northeastern Wisconsin chugs through another cutting of hay, helping push local levels to 93 percent of second cutting and 25 percent of third harvested by Aug. 5.
Photo By Carole Curtis

Weather pattern stuck on unusually cool and dry

Aug. 8, 2013 | 0 comments

The calendar flipped, but Wisconsin's weather didn't. Although rain scattered a light pattern across the state last week, temperatures remained stuck at unusually cool and crop growth remained stalled in dry areas.

"It's too cold to help a struggling corn crop. Bring on the heat. And some timely showers," a reporter from Outagamie County urged in the Aug. 5 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".

However, the reporter from Sauk County celebrated the middle ground. "Last week was a good week to live and work outside in Wisconsin," he observed in the report created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

"We need a few days when it's not unpleasant to be outdoors, because it's either too hot or raining."

According to the report, the dry week ending Aug. 4 at 7 a.m. offered farmers 5.8 days suitable for fieldwork, but the state's average topsoil moisture level fell from 34 percent short/very short to 44 percent.

"It's amazing how it goes from too wet to too dry in such little time," the Taylor County reporter observed. "All crops are showing signs of distress from lack of rain, and second crop hay is coming back very slowly."

Crops definitely weren't advancing in the parched northwest district, where topsoil measured over 70 percent short/very short on moisture.

The north central district was 67 percent short/very short and the west central district was 54 percent short/very short, compared to the southeast district where topsoil moisture levels were 85 percent adequate and 2 percent surplus or the northeast district with 77 percent adequate and 5 percent surplus.

Reported precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.02 inches in La Crosse to 0.73 inches in Milwaukee. "We got nice rain now that really helped all the crops," the Sheboygan County reporter noted.

The Eau Claire weather station reported the second driest July on record, with a mere 0.64 inches total for the month. The record was 0.12 inches in July 1936. However, the report noted that total precipitation for the year to date remains the station's third highest on record.

"If not for the cooler temperatures, we would be in real trouble after the second driest July on record," the reporter from Chippewa County added.

In Dane County, the soil was dry and cracking, although Walworth County reported showers on and off all week prevented any progress on the wheat harvest.

For the week, average temperatures were again marked at 5-7 degrees below normal. Average high temps ranged from 75-79 degrees, while average low temps ranged from 53-60 degrees.

"Corn and beans are holding their own with the dry weather, but these cool temperatures are slowing developing in a year that can't afford any more delays," the Rusk County reporter observed.

Farmers across the state polished off 86 percent of second cutting alfalfa by the end of the week, closing in on the five-year average of 92 percent. Dunn County reported second crop was very short on quantity. "We need moisture very badly in this particular area," the reporter said.

Third cutting was 14 percent harvested across the state, just half of the five-year average of 28 percent complete by Aug. 4. In Sauk County, third crop hay was described as short and needing rain for growth.

In La Crosse County, a mere 1.5 inches of rainfall during July has crops in a holding pattern as far as maturing is concerned, the reporter said.

The quality of second cut hay is good, he added, although maturation is spread out due to massive rains in June. "We had eight inches more than average, making it difficult to get the hay in," he shared.

While the cool temperatures mean late-planted corn and soybeans are struggling to mature, the report said crops across much of the rest of the state are doing well.

In Racine County, crops, overall, look very good, the reporter said. "Beans look great, as does corn, and wheat ran well," he added.

Crops in Grant County also continue to make good progress. "The moderate temperatures and sunshine have allowed folks to get their fieldwork done on time," that reporter observed.

However, the report pointed out that rain and serious warmth are needed to ensure good pollination. "We need heat. The corn and soybean several long ways to go yet," the reporter from Barron County echoed.

In Juneau County, some late-planted corn and soybeans are seriously stressed by the dry weather. "Some corn looks really good, but right across the road there is corn that is barely knee-high," the reporter said.

Corn is also very uneven and showing signs of heat stress in Sauk County, and alfalfa is short and stressed.

Statewide, corn was 67 percent silking and 6 percent in the dough stage, compared to the five-year average of 78 percent silking and 12 percent in the dough stage.

In Marquette County, where peas, snap beans and a few early potatoes were being harvested, seed corn was being de-tasseled and the male rows cut out.

Soybeans statewide were 67 percent blooming and 24 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year average of 80 percent blooming and 42 percent setting pods. In La Crosse County, some aphids have been found on the beans.

The oat harvest was finally getting underway in the northern and central parts of the state, reporters said. By week's end, 20 percent of the state's crop had been harvested for grain, compared to the five-year average of 43 percent.

The winter wheat harvest expanded across the state during the week, with yield reports varying from 40-80 bushels per acre.

In Shawano County, yields were below average and test weights were "all over the board" at 51-59 pounds per bushel, while Winnebago County tersely reported "wheat crop not good".

Rain in Rock County made the small grain harvest difficult, but most growers have completed the work, that reporter said. "Baling of straw is a different story," he added.

In Oneida County, the cranberries were in full fruit set. They're looking good, Portage County reported.

The berry season was winding down in Sauk County. "It was an exceptional year for strawberries and raspberries," the reporter said, adding apple tree branches are bent over with all the fruit they're trying to support.

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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