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Farmers charge ahead with fieldwork

May 23, 2013 | 0 comments


Wisconsin farmers put pedal to the metal last week, making good use of a long-awaited stretch of planting weather.

According to the May 20 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", the week ending May 19 offered 5.1 days suitable for fieldwork and temperatures that soared into the upper 80s and low 90s across much of the state.

Apple, cherry, pear and cranberry blossoms unfurled as soils warmed and machinery rumbled across fields as growers raced to make up for a late start.

Corn, soybeans, small grains, forage and vegetables were being planted simultaneously.

"Near-perfect field conditions and long hours for farmers and farm supply businesses alike resulted in amazing progress with fieldwork and planting this week", the Barron County reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

The tillage, planting and fertilizing progressed full tilt until slowed by sporadic rains over the weekend.

By May 19 at 7 a.m., farmers had polished off 58 percent of spring tillage, better than doubling the previous week’s mark of 26 percent and closing in on the five-year average of 79 percent.

Farmers worked around the wet spots that remained in many areas. In Waushara County, clay soils on the eastern side remain a challenge.

By week’s end, 43 percent of the state’s corn crop had been planted, up nearly 30 points from the previous week’s level of 14 percent.

Soybeans were 11 percent planted, up from a mere 1 percent last week, but still a ways off the five-year average of 32 percent.

The amount of oats in the ground doubled to 70 percent, a 35 point jump in one week.

In Green Lake County, corn and oats were starting to poke through the soil. Statewide, 7 percent of the corn crop and 30 percent of the state’s oat crop had emerged.

By contrast, the five-year average for oat emergence on May 19 is 67 percent; last year’s mark was 87 percent.

The report also detailed the amount of damage alfalfa and winter wheat suffered because of the winter weather and wet spring.

As of May 19, 34 percent of the state’s alfalfa crop was listed with no winter freeze damage, while 19 percent had severe damage, 23 percent had moderate damage, and 24 percent escaped with light damage.

Of the state’s nine districts, the hardest hit were the north-central district with 33 percent severe and 38 percent moderate damage, and the northeast district with 45 percent severe and 39 percent moderate.

The numbers were flipped for the southern tier of districts, with 61 percent of alfalfa escaping winterkill in the southwestern district, 51 percent in the south-central district and 40 percent in the southeast district.

In Florence County, winter rye and wheat, as well as alfalfa, are reportedly showing a lot of winterkill because of winter ice and ponding from early winter rains.

There’s also a great deal of winterkilled hay in Dunn County, while La Crosse County reported only a small amount.

In Barron County, 40 percent of the alfalfa has winterkilled, while Clark County’s mark was between 30-40 percent. "It appears that red clover was also subject to winterkill", the reporter said, adding winter wheat and rye are slow-growing, but look okay.

Many alfalfa fields are being reseeded or rotated to other crops, the report said. Last fall’s seedings were a loss for some growers, due to drought conditions during planting.

Pastures continued to improve, with 49 percent listed in good to excellent condition, compared to 35 percent the previous week. Although the pastures and fields are very green in Florence County, growth is very slow because of below normal temperatures. "We need heat," the reporter observed.

Winterkill to winter wheat, barley and rye was also heavy in some areas, although reporters said that some fields that appeared dead in previous weeks were now emerging.

In Kewaunee County, although areas of winterkill in both alfalfa and winter wheat were reported, the crops are recovering. "Much of the alfalfa appears to have suffered only a little," the reporter said. "Those fields affected have either been plowed under already or will be after the first crop is been removed."

The county’s winter wheat appears to have been hit harder than the alfalfa. "There are many areas with little if any wheat growing", he added. "However, the wheat is looking better every day and some producers may choose to do nothing but let the crop grow and spray the drowned areas so weeds don’t show up."

Potatoes were being planted in Barron County and beginning to emerge in Portage County. In Door County, peas were going in as cherry growers watched blossoms for signs of damage from hard frost the previous week.

For the week, average temperatures were marked at normal-two degrees above normal. Average highs ranged from 65-75 degrees, with La Crosse topping out at 92 and Eau Claire at 91. Average lows ranged from 44-49 degrees, with Eau Claire dipping to 29 and Green Bay to 30.

Precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.16 inches in Eau Claire to 0.86 inches in La Crosse.

As of May 19, 79 percent of the state’s top soil held adequate moisture, up from 73 percent the week before, and subsoil moisture had risen to 81 percent adequate.

In Kewaunee County, the dry weather boosted alfalfa growth. "The height of this crop is approaching 12 inches in some spots," the reporter relayed. "Soon scissor cutting testing will begin."

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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