Wisconsin farmers made good use of last week’s hot and dry weather, harvesting 92 percent of first cutting hay and, in some areas, already beginning work on second crop.
Photo By Carole Curtis
Making hay when the sun shines
It was hot and dry last week, meaning Wisconsin crops have the heat they need to grow, but they need moisture. However, that lack of rain and dew meant great hay-making weather.
According to the June 11 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", first cutting hay was 92 percent harvested by June 10, far above last year's mark of 58 percent, the five-year average of 54 percent and each of the past 10 years.
A chart of the last decade's first crop hay harvest put the average at 49 percent for June 10. The closest year was 2010 with 71 percent, followed by 2006 with 70 percent and 2009 with 60 percent.
Conditions were excellent for drying and curing baled hay.
"It was some of the best hay-curing weather for early June that we have seen in some time," the reporter from Wood County said in the report created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents.
However, lack of moisture was slowing growth and reducing the quality of the second crop in some areas.
Unseasonably warm weather pushed daytime highs into the 90s across Wisconsin and fueled average temperatures for the week to four to six degrees above normal.
Statewide, average low temperatures ranged from 54 to 59 degrees, while average highs fell between 77 to 84 degrees. Green Bay topped 92 degrees and Eau Claire and La Crosse hit 91. In Washburn County, Saturday and Sunday temperatures were in the 90s and it was windy.
This year's warm weather has crops running two to three weeks early across the board, the report said, noting both second crop hay and the strawberry harvest have begun ahead of normal.
Farmers in Sheboygan County are beginning their second cutting of hay, while Pierce County reported about 30 percent of second crop has already been harvested.
In Rock County, second crop hay was complete in some areas, with most expected to finish this week.
Statewide, soil moisture levels were 56 percent short to very short, the report said, which is limiting crop growth in spite of the heat.
In the northeast district, 77 percent of soils were listed as short or very short, while 85 percent of soils in the southeast district were short or very short. "Pray for rain," the reporter from Outagamie County requested.
The document underlined the widespread need for rain. "We need rain badly. Second crop is at a standstill," the reporter from Langlade County said. "We need rain very badly," the reporter from Dunn County echoed.
In Walworth County, where about one inch of rain has fallen over the last month, corn was curling over the weekend with the 90-degree heat. "We are in need of rain quite badly," the reporter shared.
It is also "very dry" in Marquette County and in La Crosse County, where lighter soils are showing signs of stress on young plants and second crop hay.
Other reporters also told of crops on lighter soils showing stress from lack of moisture.
Herbicide and insecticide applications were the major field activities for the 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork over the second full week of June, as growers reacted to rising weed and insect pressure.
Some cutworm activity was reported in Rusk County, while leafhoppers were causing problems in Richland County alfalfa fields and sparking reports of low first crop yields. "We are in need of moisture to keep the pastures growing and for second crop alfalfa growth," that reporter said.
It is "really dry" in Dodge County, where yields of first crop were reduced because the hay was cut early due to alfalfa weevil. "There won't be much of a second crop if we don't get some rain," the reporter added.
Currently, crops in Marathon County look good, but rain is reportedly needed to settle the dust and give row crops and alfalfa a needed boost.
The crops, especially oats, also look good presently in Crawford County, where the winter wheat is beginning to turn and strawberry season is in full swing.
Area farmers are reporting planted acreage to FSA and crop insurance agents, the reporter said, adding a nice rain would make a significant difference in the crops.
For the week ending Sunday, June 10 at 7 a.m., precipitation totals ranged from zero in Green Bay and Milwaukee to 0.06 inches in La Crosse.
It did not rain in Waukesha County, making it 14 days without any measurable moisture. Crop emergence has been excellent and early growth has been good, the reporter said, but the ground is now hard and dry.
Thankfully, it did rain in Rock County. "Everything was showing stress yesterday and needed a drink," the reporter said, predicting tassels on corn by the Fourth of July.
The state's corn crop was 96 percent emerged by week's end, compared to 77 percent last year and the five-year average of 89 percent. The average height of corn was marked at 11 inches, compared to four inches last year and the five-year average of six inches.
In many areas, reporters told of uneven germination due to previous storm damage and dry conditions.
The state's soybean crop remained ahead of schedule with 98 percent planted and 83 percent emerged by week's end, compared to the five-year averages of 93 percent planted and 72 percent emerged.
Some producers were planning to double crop soybeans with winter wheat, the report noted.
Oats were 41 percent headed by last Sunday, far above last year's mark of three percent and the five-year average of 12 percent. However, the report said, the crop will need more moisture to ensure good test weights.
Early cranberry varieties were blooming in Oneida and Portage County. Potatoes were being hilled in Oneida County, blooming in Portage County and being hassled by potato leafhoppers in Chippewa County.
This year's wacky weather is throwing production and yields out of kilter. Although strawberry picking was well underway across the state, reporters anticipate a short season because of the heat.
In Waupaca County, where growers report a 50 percent loss on early strawberries, late strawberries look good and so do raspberries.
In Door County, the tart cherry crop is projected to be 5-10 percent of normal, and the apple fruit set was described as "poor" across Wisconsin. In Sauk County, walnut trees have fared better than the apples in at least one reporter's area.
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.