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More rain means more delays for farmers

May 30, 2013 | 0 comments

More rain means more delays for Wisconsin farmers


The soggy saga continued for Wisconsin farmers last week, as another stretch of rainy days left waterlogged bottom lands and heavy soils across much of the state.

"This is a very cold and slow-coming spring," the reporter from Eau Claire County said in the May 28 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report."

Between 3-4 inches of rain drenched Buffalo County, stopping all field activity. "Run off caused serious erosion. Even no-till cornfields have ditches," the local reporter said.

The week ending May 26 also featured cloudy skies, cool temperatures, frost and not quite four days suitable for fieldwork.

Corn and bean planting was just picking up speed in Fond du Lac County when 2.2 inches of rain put a halt to all field operations.

Reports gathered from across the state told of ponding water, runoff damage and wet spots remaining in many fields. Some fields intended for corn may be planted with soybeans or even left fallow because of planting delays.

"We have a lot of standing water from the weekend rain," with more in the forecast, the Juneau County reporter said. "There will be a lot of people switching from corn to soybeans, and there will definitely be some prevented and late planted crops."

As of May 26, 31 percent of the state had surplus topsoil moisture, up from 18 percent last week. "It is very wet here," Wood County reported, labeling it "one of the latest springs in memory".

Wet and cold conditions continued to delay corn and soybean planting in Waukesha County, and field conditions were getting too wet in Dane County. "Finally, plenty of moisture," the reporter observed. Planting is at a standstill, he added, with all the crops in and emerging very well, including veggies and potatoes.

In Ozaukee County, heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday put everything at a standstill. There is not much activity in the heavy soil, the reporter said, although some planting is done on the lighter soils, but not many acres.

The report observed that crops were emerging slowly due to overcast skies and chilly weather, and heat is needed to dry out soils and spur crop development across the board. "Crops are way behind normal due to wet conditions," the reporter from Barron County said.

Pastures improved to 31 percent fair, 47 percent good and 17 percent excellent, with only 5 percent rated very poor to poor.

Average temperatures reported for the week were normal to two degrees above normal. Average highs ranged from 67-71 degrees, with Milwaukee and La Crosse tapping 86, while average lows range from 49-54 degrees.

Normally, La Crosse accumulates 432 growing degree days (GDD) between March 1 and May 25. This year, the tally was a mere 366. Eau Claire, which usually has 374 GDD by now, had 309.

In the middle of the week, northern Wisconsin was hit with frost, putting orchards and cranberry bogs on alert for damage to buds and blossoms.

In Oneida County, growers sprinkle-irrigated for frost protection on several nights. The cranberry buds are swelling and some have begun to open, but the vines have still not turned from dormant cranberry color to green, the reporter shared.

With feed supplies tight, producers statewide were anxious to start the first cutting of hay.

"Some farmers are cutting hay because they need the feed," the Green County reporter shared. Winter rye forage has been harvested and corn is being planted on those acres, he added.

By May 26, two percent of the state’s first cutting had been harvested, compared to 59 percent last year, and the five-year average of 19 percent.

However, the report noted, last year’s hay harvest began a full 12 days earlier than the previous record early start. For comparison, first cutting hay was 4 percent harvested on May 26, 2011, and averaged 10 percent harvested for the years 2007-11.

The hay harvest is getting close in Buffalo County, but there is still manure to spread and oats to seed - all at the same time, the reporter said.

Statewide, spring tillage reached 74 percent complete, still lagging the five-year average of 92 percent. In some areas, manure spreading has been cut short to speed planting.

Growers had planted 64 percent of the state’s corn crop and 27 percent was up, compared to the five-year average of 85 percent planted and 46 percent emerged. Several reporters commented that emerging corn looked yellow.

In Vernon County, where farmers are struggling to get corn planted and some valley fields will probably remain idle, the reporter said the crops coming up are looking yellow due to the cold, wet conditions.

The field corn that has emerged in Ozaukee County also reportedly looks yellow.

In Washburn County, where alfalfa is "coming up nice" and potatoes have been planted, commercial operators were planting soybeans.

Statewide, 29 percent of the bean crop had been planted and five percent had emerged, compared to the five-year average of 60 percent planted and 17 percent emerged.

In Sheboygan County, where a lot of field work was completed during the week, the oats are all planted.

The oat crop was 86 percent planted and 55 percent up, compared to the five-year average of 96 percent planted and 82 percent up. The condition of the crop was rated 35 percent fair, 56 percent good, and 8 percent excellent.

In areas where winter wheat survived the winter, reporters said it was developing well. Some heavily damaged fields were being replanted.

In Fond du Lac County, winter rye was labeled the best pasture species thus far. Other grasses and alfalfa are moving slowly and in need of better warmth, the reporter said.

Rye was being harvested in Green County, and potatoes were going into the ground in Barron, Washburn, Vilas and Dane counties. Apple trees were blooming as growers voiced their hopes for a normal crop this year.

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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