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Farmers roll during brief break in weather

June 27, 2013 | 0 comments


Wisconsin farmers were on the move last week as a brief break in the non-stop pattern of storms gave them a 3.7-day window of warm, dry weather to work their fields.

According to the June 24 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", farmers worked into the night to finish first cutting hay, late-season planting, nitrogen applications and weed control.

It was a good week for fieldwork, a reporter from Rusk County commented in the report created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

"There was lots of hay down and a mad dash to get the last of the planting done," he said. "It’s still really wet, but some better temps are improving the appearance of crops."

Farmers’ sense of urgency was illustrated by the report’s chart of cumulative days suitable for planting over the past four years.

Statewide, farmers had just over 50 suitable days between April 7 and June 23 in 2010; over 40 days in 2011 and 60 days in 2012. This year, they have had 29 days.

For the week ending June 23, the report said average temperatures were normal to three degrees above normal, with average highs marked between 77 and 84 degrees. La Crosse topped out at 90 degrees, while Green Bay and Madison topped 86.

Although they were still working around wet spots, dry hay was finally made in some areas before the window closed with severe weather over the weekend.

"Well, we got our wish: four consecutive days without rain to make first crop hay," a Buffalo County reporter cheered, adding the quality was average and that good hay smell was lacking.

Monroe County went six consecutive days with no rain. "A few fields were just getting dry enough to work," the reporter shared. "Then we got 1.1 inches of rain."

As weekend thunderstorms rumbled across the state, rain fell up to four inches in a single night, the report said. In some areas, the heavy rain and high winds lodged crops and flooding was reported in Taylor, Richland, Columbia, Dane and Green counties.

In Crawford County, heavy rains and high winds on Friday morning and heavy rain from Friday night through Sunday morning caused flash flooding in all tributaries and flooding in the Kickapoo River Valley.

"Crops in fields adjacent to any tributary experienced damage, which has also affected pastures, fencing, etc.", the reporter added. "The flash flooding has affected roads being washed out, along with mudslides closing some roads."

Precipitation totals reported for the week ranged from 0.93 inches in Green Bay to 2.6 inches in Madison. In most of Ashland County, where between 3-5 inches of rain fell on Friday (June 21), grain crops in low areas are yellowing.

As of June 23, 42 percent of the state’s topsoil held surplus moisture, up from 39 percent last week. The hardest hit is the north central district, where 76 percent of the topsoil holds a surplus.

Richland County reported a large amount of acres there will not be planted due to wet field conditions. "Of the acres that are planted, there has been some loss to the localized flooding," the reporter shared.

In Portage County, farmers finally got enough days without rain to get some planting done before rain on Friday stopped it all, the reporter said, while rain kept anything from being accomplished in Marquette County.

In Shawano County, farmers skirted water spots to cut alfalfa and did a lot of mud planting. "They went around wet spots in the field to get done whatever they could before more rain arrived," the reporter said.

In Dane County, planting is basically finished except for several cases of replanting due to flooding. Although weeds are evident in some fields, downy mildew in the hop yards was the only disease issue observed. "The drought is over," the reporter remarked.

In Waupaca and Dane County, the excess moisture was affecting strawberry quality, reporters said, while Crawford County was among those reporting the wet and cool conditions have prevented farmers from applying herbicides. The result is a lot of weed competition in some fields.

However, as temperatures warmed somewhat, pastures were starting to improve in Ashland County. Statewide, pastures are now doing well with only three percent listed in poor condition.

Kewaunee County reported the recent rains and warmer temperatures have really boosted plant growth, with nearly all the corn emerged and looking good, and soybeans really showing a lot of growth.

"The oat crop is one of the best looking crops right now", the reporter added. "It has really thrived with the mainly cooler and damper weather that has been the norm. The same goes for winter wheat. While the crop is nearly all headed out, it is still growing."

Statewide, 61 percent of first cutting alfalfa had been harvested by week’s end. Reports of quality were mixed, as some alfalfa developed past the window of best feed quality before it could be cut.

Most of first crop alfalfa in Kewaunee County has been taken, and what remains will most likely be baled, the reporter said. "The last of the first crop has been very heavy with high yields. Unfortunately, the quality is dropping with the course stems that exist," he added.

In Rusk County, the lateness of first crop also showed up as relatively low quality. Reporters noted the second crop of hay was coming in quickly.

Feed supplies remain tight, the report noted, and farmers are considering alternative forages. In Crawford and Grant County, oats and other small grains were being chopped for forage.

For the week ending Sunday at 7 a.m., average low temperatures ranged from 56-62 degrees. The warmer overnight temperatures were credited for the state’s corn crop now reportedly growing well.

While the corn reportedly looks "quite good" in Shawano County, other reporters observed corn in their area was yellow or stunted due to moisture stress.

By June 23, 92 percent of the state’s corn crop had been planted and 84 percent had emerged. The corn measured 12 inches tall on average, four inches taller than last week, but well behind the five-year average of 20 inches. Last year’s mark was 27 inches.

Many reporters commented that it’s now too late in the season to complete plantings as intended, the report said. Corn planting has ceased for most, and some soybean planting may be prevented as well due to wet conditions.

"With the rain this last weekend, most farmers will not plant anything that is left. It is just too late," a Shawano County reporter observed.

Soybeans were 85 percent planted and 69 percent emerged, compared to the five-year average of 99 percent planted and 96 percent emerged.

In Shawano County, the beans were taking their sweet time coming up. "Soybeans are emerging extremely slow with some taking four or five weeks to come out of the ground, and it is very uneven for stand counts," the reporter observed.

Across the state, apples and other fruit trees continued to show a heavy set of fruit.

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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