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Heat wave hits before calendar flips

Sept. 6, 2013 | 0 comments


Temperatures soared during the last week of August, making it the second hottest week of the year to date.

According to the Sept. 3 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", average temperatures for the week ending Sept. 1 at 7 a.m. were marked 9-14 degrees above normal. Relentlessly clear skies provided over six days suitable for fieldwork.

La Crosse topped 97 degrees, while Eau Claire hit 96 and Milwaukee marked 95. Average highs smoldered between 86-93 degrees, and average lows ranged from 67-74 degrees.

Across northern and eastern Wisconsin, rains were spotty to heavy. Washburn County received over six inches of rain during the week, and rains across Ashland County helped relieve very dry conditions.

Oneida County also got a surge of moisture. "We recorded right around 6 inches for the wee," the reporter remarked. The heavy rainfall caused erosion problems on roads and in cranberry beds, while above average temperatures led to increased insect pressure.

The rain fell in a very scattered pattern across Taylor County, but all got at least a shower, that reporter said.

Meanwhile, the southern and west central portions of the state stayed dry. Four of the five major weather stations received no rain at all during the hot and humid week, the report said.

Green Bay was dampened with 0.68 inches, but rain gauges remained empty for Eau Claire, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Madison.

Crops in Dodge and Washington County are hurting for moisture, and weather reporters for Vernon County began using the term "flash drought" to describe the heat and lack of rain.

Trempealeau County again reported no rain for the week and little chance for measurable precipitation in the near future. All crops there are showing signs of stress, some corn has to be chopped and third crop hay harvest is yielding low.

Winnebago County received a meager 0.2 inches of rain over the week and remains very dry, while Marquette County got less than one inch of rain across all of August. "Crops are suffering now," that reporter said.

Statewide, topsoil moisture levels were marked at 34 percent very short, compared to 27 percent very short the previous week. "The price of hay is going up every day," the reporter from Washburn County said, noting his sale of square 40-pound bales for $4.50.

In many areas of the state, reporters told of crops being badly stressed and pastures being inadequate for grazing. As of Sept. 1, 56 percent of the state’s pastures were rated in either very poor or poor condition.

However, crops made great strides where moisture was adequate.

"What a week for crop progress in our area," the Langlade County reporter exalted. "We had a combination of heat units, humidity and adequate rainfall. Corn ear fill has been tremendous. A lot of the corn intended for grain now has a chance without early frost."

The inch of rain that fell in Portage County on Saturday morning helped third crop hay tremendously and will really finish out corn and soybeans nicely now for what is at that stage, that reporter said.

"We are praying for silage on many fields," he added, noting a late frost is needed for the July-planted corn and soybeans.

In Grant County, the crops are holding on. "Even though we have had dry weather, crops are looking really good," the reporter said, but there are some worries on how the soybeans will handle the current heat and dry weather.

Some of the areas that received rain didn’t get enough to make up the deficit of the last two months. In Dunn County, three inches fell over the past two weeks, but more is needed.

In Washburn County, crops on irrigated soil look good, but crops on sandy soil have dried up.

Corn was curling and drying up in many areas, the report said. It needs rain and continued warmth to mature, with late-planted corn still lagging behind in development.

In areas where corn has dried up, was unable to pollinate or where feed supplies were running low, some farmers were reportedly chopping silage early.

As September rolled in, 61 percent of the state’s corn crop was in the dough stage and 20 percent was denting, well up from the previous week’s marks of 40 percent and 5 percent.

The five-year average stood at 77 percent in dough and 39 percent in dent, while 88 percent of corn was in dough and 58 percent was in dent on Sept. 1, 2012.

The week ended with 97 percent of soybeans in bloom and 87 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year averages of 100 percent in bloom and 97 percent setting pods.

Seven percent of the crop had leaves turning color, compared to the five-year average of 17 percent.

In Shawano and Fond du Lac bean fields, high humidity and high temperatures were blamed for bringing out white mold.

"We had about three inches of rain, with one extremely heavy downpour of 1.5 inches in 15 minutes," the Fond du Lac reporter said.

While the moisture and heat were very welcome to move crops ahead in maturity, he added, there is still a long way to go for much of it to be mature when frost arrives.

Oats were running behind the harvest average with 88 percent in the bin by Sunday, compared to the five-year average of 97 percent.

In Langlade County, the oat harvest was reportedly turning into a challenge with down crop and damp air conditions.

Statewide, third cutting alfalfa was 78 percent harvested, compared to the five-year average of 89 percent, and fourth cutting was 10 percent harvested, compared to the five-year average of 28 percent.

Tonnage and quality was down due to dry conditions, reporters said.

In Portage County, sweet corn is running between 9-10 tons per acre and green beans are yielding 7-9 tons an acre.

"Potato yields are down compared to last year, but the price is much better, so a better deal for them this year," the reporter noted.

As picking of early apples got underway, reporters commented the fruit was small in size due to the dry weather.

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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