Severe weather damps down planting
Pounding rain, hail and high winds rode through Wisconsin on severe thunderstorms last week.
Homes were damaged and roads were closed by flooding in Winnebago, Calumet and Manitowoc counties on Thursday (May 3), while hail damaged hay and small grains in Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties.
According to the “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” issued May 7, reporters across the state told of water standing in fields and significant soil erosion to tiled fields where rainfall was heaviest.
The wet and wild week offered less than three days suitable for fieldwork.
Over four inches of rain dumped on Manitowoc County, bringing everything to a standstill, the local reporter relayed in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state. “It will probably be a week to 10 days until we dry out enough to even think about going in the fields again,” he said.
Waupaca County measured rainfall totals from 2.5 to 5.5 inches, with heavy rains reportedly washing out areas in recently planted fields. In Waushara County, it rained 0.7 inches on Thursday, 0.3 inches on Saturday and 0.9 inches on Sunday for a total of 5.3 inches. “Wet”, the reporter observed.
It was the same in Sauk County. “It is too wet for anything,” that reporter noted.
Trempealeau County got the full shebang with high winds, hail and heavy rains. Low-lying fields were flooded, significant field erosion occurred, and some hay and oat fields were damaged by the hail.
Stations reported average temperatures 4 to 7 degrees above normal. The average highs ranged from 64 to 69 degrees, with Milwaukee and La Crosse topping out at 83. Average low temperatures ranged from 45 to 51 degrees, although Green Bay dipped to 29.
Precipitation totals for the week ending May 6 ranged from 0.45 inches in Milwaukee to over 2 inches in Eau Claire. Burnett County got 1.7 inches and Marathon County reported 2.5 inches.
The moisture map has shifted with 33 percent of the state’s soils now bearing surplus moisture, and the percentage of soils with short or very short moisture levels down to 5 percent.
Ashland County received light rains over the week, but topsoil moisture is still short through much of the area, the area reporter said.
Florence County welcomed the “much needed moisture” and temperatures that have risen closer to normal levels. Pastures in the area have started to improve, but most farmers are still concerned about how slow forages are growing.
In Polk County, where the rainfall was light enough to be described as “nice”, growers remain ahead of schedule with the fine weather, the reporter said, and a few producers are completely done planting.
In the southern part of Wisconsin, early corn was beginning to emerge. In Green County, nearly 65 percent of the local crop of corn is in and some farmers have already planted beans.
Statewide, soybeans now match the five-year average with five percent planted. By week’s end, 34 percent of the corn crop was planted, compared to the five-year average of 30 percent.
However, the multiple days of rain have barred farmers from their fields and may force some to replant washed out or flooded areas, the report noted.
In Kewaunee County, near perfect conditions the previous weekend meant lots of corn went into the ground, but the two inches of rain that fell has prompted concern over a crust forming on the soil in areas where clay is a major soil type.
The oat crop rolled to 86 percent planted and 51 percent emerged, compared to the five-year averages of 62 percent planted and 31 percent emerged. In the central parts of the state, farmers were concerned about damage from flooding and hail.
Producers got an early start on hay, although wet field conditions applied the brakes just as they got rolling. The five-year average start date for the first cutting of hay is May 20, the report said, noting 1 percent of first cutting hay was harvested last week, up from 0 percent last year.
In Green County, where a few fields were among those cut, farmers anticipate first cutting will be in full sway this coming week if weather allows. The crop has reached the late bud stage and weevils are abundant in many fields, the reporter added.
Reporters in northern Wisconsin believe April’s frosts will impact their first crop’s yield and quality, while growers in St. Croix County report that with the rain and the warm weather, their hay “has started to really take off now.”
In Kewaunee County, the alfalfa is showing signs of stress because of repeated frosts over the past few weeks.
The older stands are looking short and are not as dense as newer stands, which have been better able to withstand cold, the reporter noted. “There are lots of fields with dandelions,” he added.
In Marathon County, the clay soils in the southwest section have dried out enough to be worked and spring tillage is nearly complete. Statewide, spring tillage rose to 67 percent complete, still well above the five-year average of 47 percent.
The winter wheat in Green County started to head out on April 30. The report said winter wheat in many areas of the state has benefited from the additional moisture, although frost and hail have taken their toll in some areas.
Potatoes were being planted in Oneida and Langlade Counties, and beginning to emerge with the rain. Cranberry vines were budding in Oneida County.
Marathon County’s ginseng crop popped through the beds with the warm weather in April, only to be damaged by frost as temperatures dipped to 21 degrees.
In Door County, the tart cherry crop is predicted to be very light due to freeze damage, but the sweet cherry crop was reportedly not hit as hard.
Across the state, growers continue to monitor frost damage to the apple crop.
The “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” is compiled weekly at the Wisconsin Field Office in Madison under the direction of Robert Battaglia.
Tt 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.