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Farmers hoping for dry, sunny weather

June 6, 2013 | 0 comments

Rain and muddy fields continued to frustrate farmers last week as the longest, coldest spring in memory played on.

"Another week of substantial rainfall, further hampering an already extremely late planting season," the reporter from Ashland County commented in the June 3 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".

Cool, overcast days were laced with rainfall on either end of the week, while warmer temperatures midweek sparked sporadic thunderstorms. Precipitation totals for the week ending June 2 ranged from 0.80 inches in Green Bay to 3.63 inches in La Crosse.

That pushed the state's topsoil moisture level to 35 percent surplus, up from 31 percent the week before. Only 1 percent of the state remained short on topsoil moisture.

In Portage County, four inches of rain stalled all activity on heavy soils, while lighter rainfall of two inches slowed planting. "Crops look good on sandy soils, but pale on heavier soils," the reporter observed.

Many other reporters in the state-wide network of contributing farmers and county ag agents also commented that emerging crops look yellow.

Vernon County weathered another week dominated by rain and below normal temperatures. "Corn that has emerged is exhibiting a yellow, rather than green color," the reporter said. "Farmers are frustrated."

Reported temperatures for the week averaged normal to four degrees above normal, as precipitation continued to run above average accumulation levels.

Eau Claire picked up over three more inches of rain, putting the year-to-date level over eight inches above normal. La Crosse and Madison also topped eight inches above normal levels, while Milwaukee was over six inches and Green Bay was over four inches above normal levels.

The report said producers were switching fields to soybeans, silage corn or shorter season corn varieties in response to planting delays. Some reporters commented that continued wet conditions may prevent corn from being planted at all in some fields.

Jackson County reported lots of rain and still quite a bit of fieldwork to be done, while Trempealeau County said rain continued and little, if any, corn was planted. "Some prevented planted corn is becoming reality for many," the reporter shared.

"Rain, rain, go away. Come again after we get our crops in and make first cutting hay," the Washington County reporter requested. Planting is slow going, he added, and some producers are giving up on corn and planting soybeans, if they don't need the feed.

Working with the 2.6 days suitable for fieldwork of the seven, farmers across the state planted multiple crops. However, some low-lying areas and clay soils remained too saturated to even work.

"Corn, soybeans, oats and seedings are all going in at the same time," a Rusk County reporter said. "It's really too wet, but what to do."

In Manitowoc County, dry weather early in the week allowed for some more tillage and planting to get done. "There is still a significant ways to go," that reporter shared.

The storms and rain brought everything to a grinding halt in Taylor County.

"There is water laying in many fields, and many fields have not been tilled at all. There is a lot of concern about even getting the rest of the crops planted," the reporter said, noting insurance companies are holding meetings on prevented planting provisions.

Planting was progressing slowly in Dodge County as well. "There will be numerous prevented planted acres," that reporter said. The hay harvest and vegetable plantings were delayed, he added, but first cutting was beginning and fruit crops look good.

By week's end, 80 percent of the state's spring tillage was complete, 18 percent behind the five-year average.

Corn was 74 percent planted and 44 percent emerged, compared to the five-year averages of 94 percent planted and 70 percent emerged. Statewide, corn averaged three inches tall.

The first cutting of hay struggled to take off with livestock producers anxious over dwindling feed supplies, the report said. Muddy fields and the lack of good drying conditions slowed the harvest.

Despite the cold and wet weather, the alfalfa crop looked good in Kewaunee County; still in the vegetative stage with heights ranging from 20-28 inches

"Scissor clipping results show it is time to cut hay, but with no suitable drying weather the harvest is being delayed," the reporter said. "However, relative feed value is going down fast, so we're hoping for a couple of days of sun to get the crop off."

By Sunday, 7 percent of the first alfalfa cut had been harvested. Last year, 77 percent of first cutting was off by June 2, while the five-year average stands at 38 percent.

In some areas, the crop was beginning to bud, the report said, forcing farmers to cut around wet spots. Many ice-damaged hay stands would be replanted to other crops after the first cutting was taken, reporters predicted.

Statewide, pastures were rated 27 percent in fair condition, 49 percent in good and 22 percent in excellent condition.

But in Ashland County, pastures were way behind normal, despite the excessive rainfall. Continued below-normal temperatures have resulted in very slow grass growth, the reporter said.

In Grant County, where the reporter said continued wet weather is making it difficult to get any fieldwork done, what has been planted looks very good.

"The pastures are about as good as I have ever seen them, and the fruit trees and raspberries are just loaded with fruit," he added.

Statewide, 43 percent of the soybean crop had been planted by June 2 and 15 percent had emerged, far behind the five-year average of 80 percent planted and 42 percent emerged.

Oats were 91 percent planted and 77 percent emerged, compared to the five-year average of 99 percent planted and 93 percent emerged.

Rye was heading out in Buffalo County and being cut for forage in Juneau and Fond du Lac counties. Sweet corn and snap beans were being planted in Portage County, and strawberries were "looking good" in Trempealeau and Waupaca counties.

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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