Although Wisconsin farmers remained ahead of 2013’s record-setting late start for spring fieldwork last week, the margin was slim and the comfort was small.
Instead of the dry, warm days needed to rev up this year’s growing season, the week kicking into May gave widespread rain, below average temperatures and, on average, 1.4 days suitable for fieldwork.
“Continued rain all week long, along with cold weather, has stalled any progress with planting. It’s reminiscent of 2013,” the Trempealeau reporter said in the May 5 “Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report”.
Thankfully, the weekend was warm and sunny, allowing planting and tillage to progress a bit.
However, the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state found seasonal fieldwork remained well behind average. As of May 4, spring tillage is 13 percent complete statewide, seriously lagging the five-year average of 45 percent, but a tad higher than last year’s 11 percent.
Some farmers in Richland County were able to top dress fertilizer on no-till over the weekend, although cold temperatures and the week’s worth of precipitation put the brakes on any other field action.
Across the state, manure and fertilizer were being spread possible, although reporters said mud and standing water rendered many fields impassible. By the time the rain stopped, topsoil moisture levels had risen another 2 percent to top 37 percent surplus statewide.
Precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.94 inches in Green Bay to 1.25 inches in Oneida County and 2.42 inches in Eau Claire. Heavy rains fell on Sheboygan County and some snow was reported in Sawyer County.
The soggy and cool conditions continued to stall green up of pastures, hay and winter wheat.
The report put temperatures for the week at 3 to 8 degrees below normal. Average highs ranged from 48 to 53 degrees with La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee tapping 64 degrees. Average lows ranged from 38 to 42 degrees, with Green Bay sinking to a chilly 35.
In Oneida County, quite a bit of frost remains in the ground. Cranberry beds have been reflooded to move it out and facilitate spring cleanup of floating leaves and debris.
The cadre of reporters pointed out that more warm and sunny weather is needed to dry all fields and warm soils for planting.
Although a few producers in Walworth County had started seeding corn, the inhospitable ground conditions there and elsewhere in the state made it no surprise that farmers dropped behind last year’s low mark for planting.
Around Eau Claire, even if the fields were passable, tucking in seed corn was not an option. “The soil temperature is 42 degrees at two inches deep”, that reporter noted. “It is too cold to plant corn.”
By the end of the first week in May, a mere 2 percent of the state’s corn crop was in, compared to 2013’s mark of 3 percent and the five-year average of 23 percent.
A breakdown of the 10-year average of 26 percent of corn planted on May 4 put 2004 at 28 percent, 2005 at 39 percent, 2006 at 43 percent, 2007 at 30 percent, 2008 dropping to 4 percent and 2009 rebounding to 21 percent. 2010 set the decade’s high mark at 56 percent, followed by 9 percent in 2011 and 27 percent in 2012.
Soybeans remained ahead with 1 percent planted by week’s end, up from 0 percent last year, but below the five-year average of 4 percent.
Oats were 18 percent planted with 6 percent emerged, compared to 16 percent last year and the five-year average of 59 percent. Emergence was pegged at 6 percent, compared to nothing last year and the five-year average of 31 percent.
The report rated winter wheat at 59 percent in good to excellent condition, compared to 55 percent the previous week. Winter kill was reported in Walworth and Eau Claire counties, while the crop was finally starting to green up on the last fields in Shawano County. “The soil is very cold here yet,” the reporter commented.
In Green County, the wheat on higher ground has spots where it either did not survive the winter or is very slow to start, while a lot of winter wheat in Kenosha County will be worked up because of the hard winter.
In Rusk County, potatoes and oats did go in, but only a very small amount. “It was sure not much for the first week of May,” that reporter noted.
Hay supplies are running short and after two years of reduced production, so are haylage supplies. “Producers who usually have a year’s supply as a cushion are looking anxiously toward first crop,” he added, noting feed intakes ran 25 to 30 percent higher than usual this past winter.
Growers were planting potatoes with 40 percent in the ground by week’s end, compared to the previous week’s mark of 2 percent.
Pastures continued to improve, the report said, with the amount in poor to very poor condition declining from 36 percent to 26 percent over the week. In Dodge County, pastures were looking good and the reporter felt it was looking promising for fieldwork.
Although pastures are greening up in Rusk County, it wasn’t a pleasing picture. “You can’t call any of it good at this point. There’s just not much growth,” that reporter commented.
The report from Price and Taylor counties was a mix. “The good news is hay fields are not showing signs of winterkill. The bad news is that manure pits are full and cannot be emptied,” the reporter shared.
In La Crosse County, nary a single planted field could be observed by the 3rd of May. “It appears the crops are going to be late again this year,” the reporter said.
The weekly “Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition 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.