Heat punishes crops, livestock and ag workers
Southern Wisconsin broke a 117-year-old record last week, but not one celebrated.
According to the latest “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report”, the Madison weather station recorded record low rainfall for the month of June.
A mere 0.35 inches of rain fell, breaking the previous record low of 0.59 inches set in June of 1895.
The report released July 2 told of heat stress on crops, livestock and agricultural workers as another week went by without rain.
Fields dried out across the state and drought conditions in southern Wisconsin were exacerbated, with soil moisture conditions marked at 70 percent or more short to very short in five of the nine recording districts.
As highs lofted into the 90s across the 6.8 days labeled as suitable fieldwork weather, the heat boosted crop growth on land with adequate moisture as it hammered livestock and agricultural workers.
Irrigation systems across the state were getting a workout, the report noted, as average temperatures for the week came in three to five degrees above normal.
Average highs ranged from 85 to 90 degrees, with Madison heating up to 97 degrees and Milwaukee roasting at 96.
Precipitation totals for the reporting stations ranged from zero in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee to 0.06 inches in Green Bay.
“No rain received this past week and crops are very dry,” the Waupaca County reporter shared in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
All of Crawford County is extremely dry. “This week will be critical,” that reporter shared. “Some pockets in the county have not had rain for over a month and a half. While in general, crops still seem to be holding their own, it won’t last much longer if hot dry conditions persist. We need rain.”
Crops are drying up in Racine County and Rock County also remains extremely dry. “At this time, I would say some corn will not recover enough to make any grain,” that reporter predicted.
In Green County, the majority of conventional cornfields have leaves curled, with patches wilting. Conventional soybean fields are showing signs of stress, and yields of second crop hay were down as much as 50 percent.
“Amazingly, crops are still growing under these dry conditions and can still salvage yield if rain does come,” the reporter said. “You don’t appreciate all the effort and research into crop genetics until you come up against weather conditions like this.”
He added that he had not cultivated his organic corn and bean fields for two weeks in an effort to salvage any moisture left in the soil.
Walworth County also endured another week without falling moisture, holding the total to a single inch of rain in almost two months, that reporter said.
The dry weather hasn’t affected the wheat yields, he added, considering one producer’s reported yield of 108 bushels per acre.
The heat certainly fired the growth of corn, with the average height zooming from 28 inches the previous week to 40 inches. That handily beats last year’s mark at the beginning of July of 25 inches and the five-year average of 33 inches.
Corn is tallest in the south-central district, where it averages close to 50 inches, and shortest in the east-central district, where the average height is closer to 30 inches
One percent of the state’s corn was silking, compared to zeros for last year and the five-year average.
Although corn was reportedly growing rapidly with the heat and humidity, the crop was uneven in some areas. “Some corn is waist high, some is eight inches tall and maybe in the same field,” the Calumet County reporter marveled.
Dry conditions have led to curling and other signs of stress, the report said, and the state’s crop needs rain soon to recover.
Three percent of Wisconsin’s soybeans was blooming, above the one percent blooming last year at the same date, but below the five-year average of four percent.
Soybeans, too, need additional moisture, the report said, noting weed control was an issue in some areas.
Oats were starting to turn color in Chippewa County, heading out and starting to fill in Oneida County, and being harvested for oatlage in Clark County.
Statewide, 96 percent of the oat crop had reportedly headed by the first of July, running well above the five-year average of 73 percent.
Two percent of the oat crop had been harvested by week’s end, compared to zeros for both last year and the five-year average. The five-year average start date for Wisconsin’s oat harvest is July 12, the report noted.
Farmers polished off 68 percent of second cutting hay, far above last year’s mark of eight percent and the five-year average of 13 percent.
In Calumet County, for instance, producers are running 14-20 days ahead on alfalfa cutting and winter wheat schedules.
Although conditions have been good for curing hay, the report said drought conditions have slowed or halted regrowth in some areas.
“Alfalfa regrowth is struggling in many areas of this county”, the Richland reporter said, noting corn is also showing drought stress and may tassel early.
Insect pressure was a major concern across the state. “We did have a problem with army worms with second crop hay in newer seeding,” the Eau Claire reporter shared.
In Calumet County, where third cutting is greening up after rain on June 18, many hayfields have been sprayed for a multitude of insects and pressure remains above normal growing seasons, the reporter observed.
Oneida County was putting up good quality hay, Fond du Lac reported a light harvest and good quality, while Waupaca County had a decent second crop and some leaf hopper damage.
Shawano County reported average yield, good quality and very active leaf hoppers in the regrowth.
“A lot of spraying was done this week as the weather finally cooperated,” the reporter said, noting weeds are getting ahead of the soybeans in many fields.
In Oneida County, which received a below-normal dose of 3.7 inches of rain for June, wheat is filling on schedule.
The report told of growers in many areas poised to begin the wheat harvest, while others, like some producers in Waupaca County, had already begun. Good yields were reported in Green, Kenosha and Walworth counties.
In Trempealeau and Portage County, sweet corn was tasseling and in Portage County, early potatoes were being dug for canning.
In Oneida and Crawford County, reporters told of apple trees dropping fruit and speculated that it was due to a combination of the late frost’s affect on fruit set and the heat.
The weekly “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and the National Weather Service.
It is produced at National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Wisconsin field office under the direction of Robert Battaglia.