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Winter persists with snow, sleet, freezing rain

April 18, 2013 | 0 comments



Snow, sleet and freezing rain were this year’s version of April showers as another week of soggy, chilly weather kept Wisconsin farmers off their fields.

According to the latest "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", average temperatures for the week ending April 14 were 3-7 degrees below normal.

A series of storms dumped heavy rain on southern Wisconsin and snow, sleet and freezing rain across the north.

"Winter does not want to go away," the reporter from Trempealeau County said in the document created with input from a statewide network of farm reporters and county ag agents.

The reporter from Brown County was having vision problems as he filed his report. "I can’t see anything at the moment," he said. "It’s snowing."

The document also mentioned snow in the forecast. "Frustrating," the reporter from Juneau County remarked.

Vernon County had a week of multiple weather conditions - rain sleet, snow and hail and an average of 2-3 inches of rain throughout the county.

In Rusk County, the land remained white with snow and ice still capped the lakes. In snowy Washburn County, the frost was 36 inches deep. "Nothing is happening," the reporter observed.

By week’s end, Ashland County had taken on another foot of snow. "We are way behind normal. It doesn’t appear that there will be any fieldwork for a while," that reporter shared.

Snowy, soggy field conditions kept spring tillage on hold throughout the state and brought any manure spreading to a muddy stop. The only things running were maple sap and waterways.

"It’s wet. Not a wheel turning for anything," the reporter from Rock County said.

The syruping season continued with reports of sap production being much better than last year. In Rusk County, the sap run had picked up to reasonable amounts and good quality, while producers in Ashland County reported a good run.

However, cold daytime temperatures slowed the run in Taylor County. "There is still a lot of snow on the ground and mud anywhere there is not snow," the reporter said, adding concerns are growing about manure pits overflowing because nothing can be hauled out.

Rivers and streams were at or near flood stage in some areas and water stood in fields where soils were highly saturated or frozen. There were, the report noted, 0.0 days suitable for fieldwork during the week.

Ozaukee County reported water ponds all over and the river over its banks. There are still snow banks on the north side of buildings and frost in the ground at 14 inches down.

Statewide, topsoil moisture was 32 percent surplus compared to 15 percent surplus to last week and 4 percent last year. Subsoil moisture was marked at 58 percent adequate statewide.

Most of the frost is out of the ground in Columbia County, where the week was cloudy and rainy with a little snow.

"We’ve had lots of rain and much of it has infiltrated into the soil, helping to recharge soil moisture and groundwater," the reporter said, adding field conditions were saturated and muddy with water standing in depressions.

Temperatures remained below average for the state and growing degree days (gdd) were marked well below normal at all reporting stations.

While La Crosse normally has 47 gdd from March 1-April 13 and Green Bay has 25, La Crosse had accumulated a mere 12 gdd this year and Green Bay remained at zero.

For the week, average high temperatures ranged from 39-44 degrees with Madison topping 57, while average lows fell between 29-35 degrees with Eau Claire sinking to 20 degrees.

Precipitation totals ranged from 0.84 inches in Eau Claire to 3.91 inches in Milwaukee. Snow, sleet and rain across Portage County left two inches of rainfall equivalent. "We still have snowfall of one-two inches covering the fields," the reporter shared.

Northern Marinette County and Florence County also reported solid snow cover. "There is temporary solid snow cover throughout the entire area, for that matter," the local reporter added.

The week left Oconto County again 100 percent covered with snow, although the rains melted most of the snow off in Buffalo County and brought any manure dispersion to a halt.

Although alfalfa was greening up in a few areas, stands remained dormant throughout much of the state and reporters said it was still too early to judge freeze damage.

In La Crosse County, the ground remained covered with a layer of ice. "It continues to rain and the rain turns to ice," the reporter relayed. "We are unable to judge the condition of winter wheat and alfalfa."

Winter wheat was greening up in a few places, the report noted, although low temperatures and snowfall kept growth to a minimum.

In Juneau County, where rain had reduced the snowpack to a few piles and pulled much of the frost out of the ground, some rye was visible and a little wheat was starting to green up.

Walworth County reported ponding in most fields and the hope that wet conditions were building back the subsoil moisture lost last year. "Winter wheat has greened up with the abundance of moisture and some fields that look like a loss actually look good," the reporter observed.

The amount of Wisconsin oats planted by two weeks into April remained at zero, the lowest level in the past 10 years and far below the average of just under 20 percent.

In 2012 and 2010, farmers had planted 45-47 percent, respectively, of the state crop by April 14, although a mere 1 percent had been planted in 2007 and 2008 and 7 percent in 2011.

The condition of Wisconsin pastures was ranked 60 percent poor or very poor, with 31 percent in fair condition and 8 percent in good 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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