Wisconsin farmers were racking up records as they rolled through the harvest last week.
According to the Oct. 9 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report," the 2012 soybean harvest exceeded the previous record high set for Oct. 7, 2010, by a whopping 29 percentage points.
As soybeans dropped leaves to the tune of 98 percent, farmers pulled off 75 percent of the harvest, a wide swath ahead of the five-year average of 24 percent and last year's mark of 21 percent.
Over the past 10 years, the highest marks set had been 46 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2005. In some areas, however, the plants were reportedly so dry that pods and beans were shattering.
The harvests for corn grain, corn silage and fourth cutting hay were also "well ahead" of the previous record high years. In Eau Claire County, drought conditions have translated into corn and beans being harvested a good three weeks ahead of normal.
Propelled by a second week of cold, dry and windy weather with 6.9 days deemed suitable for fieldwork, farmers wrapped up the fourth cutting of hay two weeks earlier than the previous record year and also polished off 58 percent of fifth cutting.
Meanwhile, the land continued to dry up. Reporters in the statewide network of contributing farmers and county ag agents told of blowing dust kicked up by fieldwork and wind erosion across tilled fields.
Precipitation totals for the week ending 7 a.m. on Oct. 7 topped out at 0.02 inches in Milwaukee, while Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse and Madison went without.
The state's soil moisture levels dropped further, falling from 83 percent very short or short to 90 percent. The extreme dryness has made tillage and fall seeding difficult, the report said, and germination of fall crops continues to be poor.
Pastures deteriorated, falling from 73 percent very poor or poor the previous week to 77 percent.
In Eau Claire County, the pastures have zero yield. Livestock are being fed winter feedstuffs, the reporter said, and fencing is being built to graze cornfields after harvest. "A huge concern is fire danger in the crop fields and forests," he added.
The state's corn crop measured 92 percent mature with 36 percent harvested for grain by Oct. 7, compared to the five-year averages of 70 percent mature and 13 percent harvested.
Reporters in some areas told of corn dropping ears and stalks snapping or falling over because of the dry conditions.
The moisture levels of high moisture corn continued to fall as the harvest finished up in most areas, and stalk chopping and baling continued. In Polk County, moisture levels were about 15 percent on corn and 10 percent or less on beans.
The corn being taken for drying in Shawano County was in the 60-20 percent range, while dry corn in Buffalo County was running between 12-20 percent moisture.
Yield reports for corn and soybeans varied widely with soil type, planting date and precipitation received, the report said. In Polk County, yields were reported as average to slightly above average, depending on when the crop was planted, variety and soil type.
Corn yields were coming in at average or better in Ashland County, although a few fields did not fully recover from the flood damage in June. In Portage County, the soybean harvest was marked lower than average.
The word from Fond du Lac County was mixed with many good soybean yields of 60-70 bushels per acre and many poor at 25-30 bushels per acre. In Grant County, "the corn and bean yields are highly variable, but probably a little better than we feared," the reporter said.
In Shawano County, most soybean fields were making between 60-70 bushels per acre, while Green County farms on mostly upland soils are notching higher soybean yield averages than corn.
In Buffalo County, farmers were harvesting soybeans with moisture levels between 8-13 percent and yields swinging between 5-70 bushels an acre. Walworth County reported soybean yields at 30-35 bushels per acre and a lot of corn fields giving 50-60 bushels per acre.
Fall tillage hit 21 percent complete by week's end, almost doubling the five-year average, and would be higher, but farmers in some areas were holding off until moisture of some sort fell on their land. The top soil in Waukesha County was described as "hard and dry."
Winter wheat and fall cover crops seedlings across the entire state need rain to germinate, the report said.
In Dane County, where rain hasn't fallen for weeks, fall planted winter wheat and oats planted for cover crop have not received enough rain to germinate. "Black clouds of dust due to smut in the corn fields have been billowing from the combines," the reporter shared. "There will be no good news from crop producers until significant precipitation occurs."
The potato harvest finished up in Vilas County and was wrapping up in Oneida County, while the state's cranberry harvest continued. It was reportedly slow going in Portage County because of limited water. In Sawyer County, a very hard freeze over the weekend ended the growing season for all produce growers using high tunnels, except those providing supplemental heat or with very good heat loss management.
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.