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Planting, haying well behind normal

June 13, 2013 | 0 comments


With the weather stuck on cold, wet and overcast, farmers across Wisconsin are surveying their soggy fields and considering their options.

"We will just wait for things to dry up and see what our options are," a Langlade County reporter said in the June 10 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".

The state’s topsoil moisture hit 44 percent surplus last week, up from 35 percent the week before, the report said, as inclement weather stifled the number of days suitable for field work to 2.4.

The north-central district has been hit particularly hard, with topsoil moisture at 94 percent surplus and 0.5 days suitable for fieldwork last week.

The southeast district was at the other end, with topsoil moisture at 19 percent surplus and four days to work their fields.

Many in the state-wide web of farm reporters and county ag agents told of standing water and drowned out or unplantable areas in bottomlands, as progress totals for planting and emergence of all crops, tillage and haying remained well behind normal.

A reporter from Sauk County summed it up. "This has been the most frustrating, aggravating year that anyone can recall," he said. "No dry hay has been made and the prospects for the upcoming week do not sound good at all."

"No one is talking about replanting, because there is so much original planting to be done yet," he continued. "And the days that are dry enough for spraying are too windy, so many have had to change their mixes to post-emerge, instead of pre-emerge."

However, he added, the fruit trees do look terrific and the asparagus is coming on so strong, they can’t eat and preserve it fast enough.

For the week ending June 9, precipitation totals ranged from 0.05 inches in Milwaukee to 0.99 inches in La Crosse.

Rains continued in Eau Claire County, where some producers were calling this week the last chance to plant. The large dairies are having issues trying to empty manure pits prior to planting crops, a local reporter said, and field conditions are stuck on wet.

"Producers are nervous to travel on them due to the damage equipment could cause, but a few brave producers have cut hay because they need the feed," he added.

In Richland County, some bottom lands may go unplanted this year, while in Green County, the lack of heat has stalled the growth of corn.

"Small plants plus rains - cannot get the corn field dried off enough to cultivate. We’re doing organic, so grass has taken over the field," a reporter shared.

Statewide, farmers finished off 85 percent of spring tillage by working around wet spots. The five-year average and last year’s mark showed farmers done with tillage by June 9.

The damp conditions offered weeds favorable growing conditions, but made spraying difficult and many hayfields too wet to cut, despite short feed supplies and rapidly maturing alfalfa.

Where cutting was possible, drying the hay was not, the report observed.

Washburn County was one of the exceptions. "We’re lucky to be on sandy soils," a local reporter shared. "All the planting was done around average dates. The corn, alfalfa and soybeans are up and waiting for heat to grow, and we started the alfalfa harvest on Friday and Saturday (June 7 and 8)."

Outagamie, Winnebago and Marathon County were among those on the other end of the scale. "There is too much moisture. Nothing can be done until we get sun and drier conditions," a Marathon County reporter said, while Outagamie observed there was lots of planting to go and hay to make.

Statewide, 17 percent of the first cutting alfalfa had been harvested by June 9. Last year, 90 percent of first cutting was off by June 9, while the five-year average stands at 58 percent.

According to reporters, dairies were taking haylage as needed for feed, but most other haying was at a standstill.

In Marquette County, where the corn is yellowing for lack of sunshine and drier conditions, the reporter said many farmers are still waiting for a three-day dry window to cut and harvest their hay crop.

In St. Croix County, the cool, damp weather made haying "impossible", a reporter said, although the harvest was underway in Pierce County where growers can get on the fields. "The alfalfa quality is now at full bud and declining due to the late cutting," that reporter observed.

Over the past 10 years, first crop hay harvest has fallen below the 10-year average of 53 percent complete by June 9 four times. It was 37 percent in 2003, 24 percent in 2004, 46 percent in 2005, and 20 percent in 2008.

By week’s end, the state’s corn crop was 81 percent planted, 60 percent emerged and five inches tall on average. The five-year average is 99 percent planted, 87 percent emerged and 5 inches tall, on average.

Waushara County was also among those reporting corn was slow growing due to the cold weather and wetter than normal soil.

Some uncompleted corn planting was reportedly being abandoned in favor of shorter season crops, especially in the north. Oconto County reported some crop farmers are switching from corn to soybeans on all their unplanted acres.

Reporters commented that emerged corn and soybeans, as well, were looking yellow and short due to the lack of heat.

The persistently cool, wet, overcast conditions plaguing Pierce County, as well as others, mean delayed planting continues and the corn and soybeans "look poor".

Average temperatures reported for the week were 5-7 degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 64-67 degrees, while average low temperatures ranged from 48-52 degrees.

It was another cold, wet week for Florence County, but most planting is done and the corn is emerging well. "Everyone is commenting on how yellow it is," the reporter said.

Soybeans were 55 percent planted and 28 percent emerged, compared to the five-year average of 91 percent planted and 67 percent emerged.

Oats were 94 percent planted and 87 percent emerged, compared to the five-year average of 100 percent planted and 98 percent emerged.

The oat crop was 1 percent headed, compared to 37 percent last year and the five-year average of 15 percent. The crop was looking good in some areas, the report said, but showing moisture stress in other areas.

Statewide, the condition of the oat crop was rated 79 percent fair to good, 16 percent excellent and 5 percent poor.

Corn was rated 35 percent in fair condition, 46 percent in good, 9 percent in excellent, 8 percent in poor and 2 percent in very poor condition, while pastures were rated 74 percent in fair to good condition, 24 percent in excellent and 2 percent in poor condition.

In Portage County, reporters said potatoes and processing vegetables in the central sands were looking good. Apples and other fruit trees had finished blossoming and were showing a heavy set of fruit.

In Waupaca County, the strawberry season is about three weeks behind normal, while the winter wheat was heading out in Fond du Lac and Kenosha counties. "It looks better than I thought it would," the Fond du Lac reporter noted.

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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