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Weather pendulum swings to hot and dry

July 24, 2013 | 0 comments


A heat wave washed across Wisconsin last week, driving temperatures 7-10 degrees above normal and sucking soil moisture levels down.

High humidity and hot nights compounded the stress on livestock and farm workers, the July 22 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" said. Minimum temperatures averaged in the upper 60s and low 70s, while average highs ranged from 89-94 degrees.

La Crosse topped out at 98 degrees, Eau Claire at 97 and Milwaukee at 95. Green Bay and Madison hit 93 degrees.

The week ending July 21 offered farmers 6.5 days suitable for field work statewide, but heat indexes were brutal.

It was the third week with minimal precipitation. "One month all rain; next month, no rain," a reporter from Ozaukee County observed in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

As of July 21 at 7 a.m., reported precipitation totals for the week ranged from nothing in Madison and Milwaukee to 0.68 inches in Green Bay. "Crops are in serious need of rain and showing stress," the reporter from Washburn County pointed out.

While rain did fall in Florence County, it was very spotty and, at times, heavy with strong winds. "One farmer could be bailing hay and the next farm a quarter mile down the road was drowned out," that reporter said.

Green County was split, as well. "The northern part of the county received some rain, but the southern half is very dry," the reporter commented. "Corn is curling on the shallower soils."

There were widespread reports of corn curling on light soils, even in areas where soil moisture was excessive less than a month ago, the report noted. By week’s end, topsoil moistures dropped from the previous week’s level of 16 percent short to very short to 41 percent short to very short.

For Trempealeau County, that meant field conditions finally changed from very wet to dry. In Fond du Lac County, some previously wet fields were worked at last and planted to a late-season forage crop.

Some replanting of corn and beans was accomplished on land flooded in the river bottoms of Green County. "The acres affected are very minor, but substantial to those individuals," the reporter commented.

The state’s corn loved the hot, muggy weather and grew rapidly, pushing the average height from 44-58 inches in seven days. In the south central district, corn averaged 72 inches tall, handily beating the five-year average of 67 inches.

The corn was starting to tassel with silking marked at 18 percent, compared to the previous week’s level of 2 percent and the five-year average of 33 percent. Last year, 58 percent of corn had silked by July 21.

In Pierce County, the first tassel and silking for field corn was observed on June 19 in a field planted on May 15 with a 105-day RM hybrid.

Soybeans began to flower. By week’s end, 31 percent of the state crop was blooming, compared to the previous week’s level of 13 percent, the five-year average of 45 percent and last year’s mark of 60 percent.

Many reporters commented that rain is needed to ensure good pollination of both corn and beans. In some areas, soybeans on light soils were showing stress.

In Crawford County, the hot, dry days and high humidity made a big difference in the fields. "Overall, corn and soybeans look very good, and oats and winter wheat look good," the reporter said.

Across the state, farmers braved extreme heat indexes to make second crop hay, with average to good yields reported. By Sunday, 60 percent of second cutting had been polished off, closing in on the five-year average of 75 percent. Last year, farmers were finished by July 21.

In Waupaca County, the second hay harvest was going full tilt with good quality and yields reported. Crawford County reported second crop on the light side, but quality seems good.

In Vernon County, the second crop alfalfa was very short. "Crops could use a good soaking rain," the reporter observed.

While some second crop hay was also being harvested in Taylor County, most farmers were just finishing up first crop. "There were still some fields planted to forage crops last week, with some fields that are still fallow," the reporter added.

Earlier planted corn, small grains and soybean fields are spotty where they were too wet or washed out, he noted, and some fields ended up with replanting in many areas.

Several reporters noted that hay and pastures have stopped growing in response to the dry conditions.

In the southern part of the state, winter wheat was being harvested for grain. Yield reports for the week varied from 60-90 bushels per acre.

In Kenosha County, where farmers contended with hot winds and 90 degrees before noon, the winter wheat harvests had begun with good yields of 70 bushels an acre reported.

The hot and dry conditions prompted oats to turn rapidly, with 91 percent of the crop headed. Statewide, 4 percent was harvested for grain, compared to the five-year average of 14 percent and last year’s mark of 46 percent.

Sweet corn was tasseling in Trempealeau County and early potatoes were being dug in Portage County.

In Oneida County, the cranberry crop was mostly out of bloom and was setting fruit. "There is very little insect pest activity this year," the reporter said.

However, Vernon County reported diseases sparked by the wet spring are starting to affect fruit crops, including spotted wing drosophila in the raspberries.

In Portage County, where farmers were finishing up first cut hay, early potatoes were being dug and cranberries were setting fruit.

The pea harvest marked good yields and the snap bean harvest was underway with good yields, the reporter said, noting some fall seeding had started.

In Door County, one third of the canning pea crop was off with reported yields as high as 5,500 pounds.

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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