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Crops, farmers stressed for lack of rain and heat

Aug. 22, 2013 | 0 comments


The fourth in a string of weeks with sparse precipitation and below average temperatures is stressing crops and farmers across Wisconsin.

"WE NEED RAIN", the Eau Claire reporter emphasized in the August 19 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".

The area was four inches below normal precipitation levels for the month of July and is already three inches below for August. "Please send moisture," he begged.

The report, created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state, reverberated with similar calls for moisture and descriptions of thirsty crops.

Corn and soybeans were showing stress for lack of moisture, especially in the northern half of the state.

"We really need rain," the St. Croix reporter said. "The severe lack of moisture is negatively affecting all non-irrigated crops. Third cutting of hay is being harvested with substantially reduced yields; pastures are brown."

"It has been very dry all of June, July and August. The last rain was two weeks ago," the Burnett County reporter shared.

In Green County, where soil moisture levels are very low, lack of rain over the past three weeks will reduce both corn and soybean yields on shallow soils, that reporter said.

The report for the week ending Aug. 18 at 7 a.m. said the state’s average soil moisture levels dropped to 59 percent short to very short last week, down from 44 percent the previous week and 62 percent one year ago.

"We really need rain," the Grant County reporter said, while fields on sandy soils in Shawano County were labeled "in desperate need" of immediate rainfall.

Across Clark County, spotty showers for the past six weeks have missed many areas. Unless under irrigation, all the crops, including vegetables, are under stress from drought conditions since July 1, the reporter said.

"Cool temperatures are adding to the stress," he continued. "Traveling across the county, corn is knee/waist high to setting grain and soybeans are in a similar situation. Tough decisions will have to be made as the growing season continues."

Unseasonably cool temperatures continued across the state. Reporting stations marked average temperatures for the week at 4-5 degrees below normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 74-80 degrees, while low temperatures ranged from 50-58 degrees.

In north central Wisconsin, spotty frost hit midweek.

The report said late planted crops continue to lag behind normal development, and heat is needed for those acres to pollinate successfully.

"Row crops planted late or on sandy soil are definitely stressed. Yield reductions are likely," the Sawyer County reporter said.

"I would not count on anything making grain corn in Langlade County right now," that reporter observed. "Right now about 25 percent looks like high moisture potential. The rest will be corn silage."

The cold, dry conditions were also impacting pasture and the quality of third crop hay.

In Sawyer County, feed inventories will be tight if third crop harvests are poor, the reporter predicted. Area farmers were planting grasses on prevent acres, hoping to harvest forage after Nov. 1.

By Aug. 19, Wisconsin farmers were wrapping up second cutting alfalfa with 97 percent in the bag, close on the heels of the 99 percent five-year average.

They’d also taken 49 percent of third cutting, up from 27 percent the previous week, but lagging behind the five-year average of 61 percent.

Nice harvest conditions prevailed for a third crop with decent yields in Langlade County. In Kewaunee County, the third cutting yields coming in were labeled "respectable", but not as good as second crop.

In Green County, some farmers are hoping to take a fourth cutting "if we get some much needed rain," the reporter said.

In the state’s corn fields, 88 percent was silking and 25 percent was in dough stage, compared to the five-year averages of 97 percent silking and 45 percent in dough stage.

One percent of corn had dented, compared to 18 percent last year and the five-year average of nine percent.

In Ozaukee County, early planted corn is setting cobs and there are a few stalks with two full ears showing. However, reporters commented that late plantings of corn were short, yellow and showing stress from lack of moisture.

It was a different case in Kewaunee County, where nearly half an inch of rain early in the week made it a slow go for making dry hay or combining.

Later on, conditions improved greatly and much work was accomplished in the fields, the reporter said.

Across the state, soybeans were 86 percent blooming and 61 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year averages of 96 percent blooming and 81 percent setting pods.

By week’s end, 60 percent of the state’s oat crop had been harvested with most reporting good yields.

Sawyer County reported small grain yields for grain and straw were above average, while Kewaunee County’s harvest of oats was "looking very good" with some yields pegged over 100 bushels per acre.

The winter wheat harvest was wrapping up with slightly below average yields. Shawano County also reported light test weights.

In Kewaunee County, vomitoxin has been found in some of the harvested wheat, caused by the cool and damp conditions experienced for the most part of the year.

Treatment with a fungicide helped, the reporter said, but even that did not totally eliminate the problem.

The wheat harvest was a challenge this year, he added, mainly because of the high moisture content of that grain and the low test weight.

"Producers could have waited for conditions to get drier, but this may have meant taking the chance that the wheat could sprout, making the grain worth a lot less," he commented.

Yields were not that good, ranging from the 20s to over 70 bushels per acre. It is very common to see yields from 50-60 bushels per acre, he said, noting lots of chopping and baling of both wheat and oat straw was underway.

In Marquette and Portage counties, sweet corn was being picked and potatoes were being harvested.

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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