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Dry conditions

keep their clamp on Wisconsin

Aug. 30, 2012 | 0 comments

Spotty rains across Wisconsin last week did little or less to alleviate dry conditions.

No rain fell around Madison, although Chippewa County welcomed over an inch. Marathon County got 0.7 inches of rain, but no rain meant it's pretty much over for farmers in Langlade County.

"The growing season is basically done, due to lack of moisture. The crops are drying down prematurely," the local reporter said in the latest "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".

The Aug. 27 report, created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents, put soil moisture levels across the state at 26 percent very poor on Aug. 26, up from 23 percent the previous week.

Thirty-eight percent of Wisconsin is dealing with short soil moisture levels, while 36 percent of the state's soil had adequate moisture.

The condition of grazing land slid as well, with 56 percent of the state's pasture land listed in very poor or poor condition, compared to 54 percent the previous week.

Livestock producers were reportedly turning to early silage, emergency CRP haying and purchased feed for their animals. As crops came off the fields, farmers were planting extra fall forage.

In the corn fields, 37 percent of the state's crop was rated in very poor or poor condition.

Soybeans fared somewhat better, with 23 percent listed in very poor or poor condition.

The summer's drought and uneven rain patterns have caused wide variation in crop conditions and potential yields, both from region and region and, in some areas, from field to field, the report said.

In Marathon County, where maple, ash and sumac are already turning color, topsoil moisture levels were short on all but clay ground.

Chippewa County expects an average crop of corn, but soybeans will be below average.

Crops in Kewaunee County appear to be handling the lack of good rain since the end of July. Most of the soybeans and corn have matured to the point where rain may not help them increase the yields, the reporter noted.

Maple, ash and sumac are already turning color in Marathon County. Migrating birds were observed heading south in Chippewa County, and apple picking began early with reports of low yields and trees dropping fruit due to drought conditions.

Reporters commented that drought on top of this spring's early bloom and freeze events have resulted in heavy losses for many orchards. In Kewaunee County, the apple drop is reportedly forcing "pick your own" orchards to open earlier than usual.

With 6.1 days suitable for field work last week, producers across the state were busy taking their fourth cutting of hay, and some are hoping for a fifth.

By week's end, 46 percent of the state's fourth crop had been taken, up from 24 percent last week and far above the 10 percent harvested last year and the five-year average of eight percent.

However, the report noted, drought and insect pressure have meant poor yields in some areas, despite the record early start to this year's hay cutting cycle.

In Dane County, where the hot and dry weather has been "horrible for all crops", weeds are still growing and disease pressure continues. "Must be the dew at night," the reporter commented.

Fourth crop alfalfa in the county was very low on yields and not too much on quality. Fifth crop measured about eight inches tall, he added, but will need rain to make a cuttable crop.

Thanks to "a nice amount of rain" on Dodge County over the past weekend, farmers there feel they stand a better chance for fifth crop.

In Marathon County, growers reported good quality fourth crop, but poor yields.

Fourth crop quality in Dunn County is good, but "yield is minimal, at best", the reporter said, and fifth crop will be taken by many.

Fourth crop alfalfa is yielding better than third crop on many Richland County farms and area growers, especially the large dairy farms, are also likely to take a fifth crop..

In Kewaunee County, where some farmers are still making third crop, lots of fourth crop is already in. "The yields on these two crops have been good, better in many cases than the previous crop," the reporter said. "This area will be blessed with enough hay going into winter."

Average temperatures for the week ending Aug. 26 were one degree below to two degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 81 to 84 degrees, with La Crosse and Madison topping out at 91. Eau Claire dipped to a low of 41 degrees, although average lows across the state ranged from 53 to 62.

Corn development is running about 15 percentage points ahead of normal, the report said. As of Aug. 26, the state crop was 80 percent in dough stage and 41 percent denting, well above the five-year averages of 66 percent in the dough stage and 24 percent denting.

Three percent of the crop was mature, compared to zero percent last year and the five-year average of one percent. The harvest of corn silage rose to six percent, as farmers continued to chop damaged corn and began to open up their fields.

In Marathon County, some farmers were chopping corn silage "because it is so dry", the reporter noted, while Dane County reported a lot of corn silage was being taken.

In Dunn County, moisture levels ranged from 55-68 percent, with estimated yields on fields being chopped ranging from 10 to 125 bushels per acre.

The corn silage harvest was also well underway in Walworth County, with reported yields ranging from 7-15 tons to the acre. Some silage had very little corn in it, the reporter commented.

Soybeans were setting pods to the tune of 98 percent last week, compared to the five-year average of 92 percent, and 18 percent had leaves turning, up from two percent last week and the five-year average of five percent.

The potato harvest was underway in Oneida, Dunn and Portage counties.

The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and the National Weather Service. It is produced at National Agricultural Statistics Service's Wisconsin field office under the direction of Robert Battaglia.

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