Although last week started a bit wet for some farmers, the week redeemed itself with six days of clear, dry weather that sparked a bustle in the fields.
According to the Aug. 11 "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report", second cutting of alfalfa kept pace with the five-year average and third cutting gained 16 percentage points, while the amount of winter wheat harvested jumped from 47-74 percent.
While the dry conditions were a boon for fieldwork, topsoil moisture levels continued to fall in most areas. In Florence County, the condition of crops ranges from poor to very poor. "We need rain soon just for crops to survive," the local reporter said in the document created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents.
The fickle storm systems that moved through Wisconsin on Sunday and Monday hit some areas with soaking rains and completely skipped neighboring counties. For the week ending Aug. 10, precipitation totals ranged from 0.03 inches in Green Bay to 1.74 inches in Madison.
Oneida County got 0.07 inches for the week, prompting several sessions of sprinkle irrigation, while Washington County got teased with 0.5 inches, and Fond du Lac and Eau Claire counties hit the jackpot.
"We received another million-dollar rain this week with the majority of the county receiving between 1.5-2 inches," the Fond du Lac reporter said, noting the moisture has erased signs of stress and will boost the second or third crop hay harvest, aid in pasture growth and help finish corn and soybean pollination.
Everywhere the rain fell, corn, soybeans and hay fields perked up in response.
"The rain received here last weekend really made an impact on the growing crops, especially the soybeans," the Kewaunee County reporter shared. "Beans were in less than ideal condition up until the rain. They've grown up and outward, getting taller and bushier, which is helping to shade the ground and conserve the moisture there."
As of Aug. 10, 82 percent of the state's corn crop was silking with 20 percent in the dough stage, well above the previous week's mark of 68 percent silking and 8 percent in dough and last year's mark of 76 percent silking and 11 percent in dough.
In Dane County, some corn is around seven feet tall, some is five feet tall and the color varies. Kewaunee County fields are a patchwork with some corn plants in tassel and others lacking. "The corn that came up late and was stressed because of the lack of moisture and cool temperatures still has not tasseled," the reporter explained.
That may cause a problem at harvest season with some plants having mature corn and other plants having immature corn and more moisture. "Drying cost may be higher this fall when trying to dry this corn," he noted. "The same can also be said for the soybeans."
Statewide, soybeans were 88 percent blooming with 65 percent setting pods, compared to the previous week's level of 79 percent blooming and 45 percent setting pods. Last year, 74 percent of soybeans were blooming and 38 percent were setting pods on Aug. 10.
The second cutting of alfalfa was 95 percent complete and 38 percent of third cutting was off, compared to last year when 91 percent of second cutting and 25 percent of third had been taken.
Ninety-two percent of the state's oat crop was turning color, up from 83 percent the previous week. Thirty-eight percent has been harvested for grain, which was above last year's mark of 35 percent, but lagging the five-year average of 57 percent.
In Eau Claire County, producers reported 60-70 bushels of oats per acre on average, with some fields boasting 90-95 bushels per acre.
As the state harvest of winter wheat hit the three-quarter mark, Fond du Lac County finished off the harvest with yields ranging from 57-70 bushels per acre.
In Kewaunee County, the moisture content of the incoming crop was in the 15-19 percent range, which would cause a dock in the sales price, so some producers were waiting for the moisture to come down before taking their wheat off.
In Columbia County, there were several reports of DON (vomitoxin) in the wheat showing up at elevators and farmers being docked.
As of Aug. 10, the amount of Wisconsin crops in good to excellent condition was 69 percent of corn, 70 percent of soybeans, 78 percent of oats, and 75 percent of potatoes.
While the report put the condition of hay fields at 81 percent in good to excellent condition, pastures were suffering from the lack of moisture. Condition declined for a fourth week in a row, with the current level of 55 percent in good to excellent shape down 12 percentage points from the previous week.
Areas bypassed by the recent storms were badly in need of moisture, the report said, marking topsoil moistures at 43 percent short to very short statewide, compared to 33 percent the previous week.
Reporters statewide noted the dry conditions are slowing the growth of third crop alfalfa. In Washburn County, corn and soybeans are burning up on the sandy soils, while the moisture that came to sections of Columbia County took an adverse form. The area got pelted with small pockets of hail that damaged some corn and soybeans and knocked some standing wheat flat.
Because of the dry weather, the outlook for Sauk County is reminiscent of last year. "It is not as severe as last year, but there is still time for a lot of good-looking corn and soybeans to go downhill," the reporter observed.
For the first full week of August, daytime temperatures held in the 80s, with Eau Claire topping 87 and La Crosse marking 86. Average temperatures were normal to 3 degrees below normal, with reported highs ranging from 76-84 degrees and average lows ranging from 57-63 degrees.
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.