Corn planting commences despite chilly temps
Average temperatures dipped below normal last week, sparking frosty mornings and reports of damage to fruit crops and hay across the state.
According to the “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” issued April 30, cranberry, grape and raspberry growers remain on frost watch, while apple growers are concerned about the full extent of frost damage to blossoms.
The publication created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state said fruit trees in Chippewa County have been hit hard, and tree fruit growers in Clark County are among those concerned over near-daily frosts.
In Vernon County, where alfalfa, winter wheat and oats all look good, growers are waiting for warmer temperatures to see how much the grapes’ first budding stage was affected by the area’s light frosts and cool rains.
In Eau Claire County, the alfalfa that got off to an early start with record warmth in March now has frosted leaves and downshifted growth. “The blossoms on apple trees have frosted edges. The pollinating insects are working the best they can, but some apples are lost,” the reporter shared.
A killing frost hit Waukesha County on Wednesday (April 25). “It was snow white all over,” the local reporter said. “We’re not sure how the winter wheat, alfalfa and fruit trees are going to come out of this.”
In Waupaca County, local strawberry crops have reportedly suffered at least a 50 percent loss.
Meanwhile, conditions in Dane County have been “excellent” for fieldwork and there is little, if any, reported evidence of winterkill on alfalfa or winter wheat. Washington County echoed that: “Producers are in the fields and the cool weather hasn’t seemed to slow them down too much,” the reporter observed.
Statewide, average temperatures for the week ending April 29 came in 1 to 3 degrees below normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 51 to 61 degrees, while average low temperatures ranged from 33 to 41 degrees.
Many areas were not average, of course. Thermometers read 22 degrees on Friday morning in Portage County, and 25 and 26 degrees in Calumet County. “We can see some damage to the tops of leaves of alfalfa, wheat and other grasses, but there is probably minimal overall loss due to frost,” that local reporter noted.
There is some winterkill to alfalfa, but most is just set back, the Monroe County reporter said, noting the tallest alfalfa now measures about 20 inches.
The soil temperatures must be low because hardwood trees are very slow to get leaves, a Buffalo County reporter observed, adding that alfalfa in the area is doing fine and pasture grasses are now grazable.
In general, growers remain hopeful that cold-nipped crops will bounce back after temperatures warm up, the report noted.
The last full week in April offered 4.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Minimal rain fell across the state, allowing farmers to haul manure, spread fertilizer, till and plant.
With precipitation totals ranging from 0.06 inches in Eau Claire to 0.49 inches in Milwaukee, over 80 percent of the state’s soils now contain adequate moisture. Ten percent of soils remain either very short or short on moisture.
Parts of Clark County remain short, as well as Langlade County. “We still need rain that is more than a few 10ths,” that reporter observed.
Meanwhile, in Grant County, much-needed rain is delaying an early planting season and putting the first crop alfalfa harvest on hold.
The corn planters were out in force last week in Marquette County and are moving steady on the higher, dryer ground in Calumet County.
Statewide, 18 percent of the corn crop has been tucked in, up from 6 percent last week and above the five-year average of 12 percent.
A bit of soybeans was planted, giving a state-wide statistic of 1 percent and a lead over last year’s mark of zero.
A good 80 percent of the state’s oat crop had been planted by week’s end, far ahead of last year’s mark of 15 percent and the five-year average of 47 percent. Nearly 40 percent of the plantings had emerged, outstripping last year’s mark of 3 percent and the five-year average of 15 percent.
Reporters commented that, despite the cold weather, emerged oats were looking good.
The cold nighttime temperatures continue to depress hay and alfalfa growth across the state, and there is concern about the frost’s impact on yield and quality. First crop was being cut in Calumet, Dane, Green, Walworth and Waukesha counties.
In Calumet County, the first scissors cuttings were done on April 24. The five samples ranged from 250-270 PEAQ readings with heights from 11 to 14 inches, the reporter shared, with lab RFQs ranging from 247-328
Spring tillage rose to 58 percent complete, riding high above last year’s mark of 10 percent and the five-year average of 32 percent.
Many correspondents told of winter wheat in good condition, the report relayed, with potential frost damage reported in Rock, Kenosha and Waukesha counties. In Sheboygan County, the winter wheat crop is looking “generally very good” this year, that reporter shared.
In Rock County, early rye was being harvested for silage.
Peas are going into the ground in Shawano and Dane counties, and emerging in Trempealeau, Marquette and Walworth counties.
Potato planting continued in Oneida, Portage, Shawano, Sauk and Dane counties, and was wrapping up in Waupaca County.
The “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” is compiled weekly at the Wisconsin Field Office in Madison under the direction of Robert Battaglia. It 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.