Farmers get busy despite rain
Machinery rumbled across fields as farmers planted corn, beans and kicked off a remarkably early start on hay.
According the “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” issued May 14, this year marks the earliest start date for haying in the past 30 years of crop progress data.
Nearly 10 percent of the state crop had been harvested by week’s end, compared to zip last year and a zero for the five-year average.
With the first cutting well underway, growers reported 92 percent of the crop has suffered little to no freeze damage statewide. Columbia County was among the areas where hay reportedly dropped some leaves and value during the frost season.
Spring tillage is also running ahead of the average. By Mother’s Day morning, farmers had polished off 79 percent of Wisconsin’s tillage acres, compared to 45 percent last year and the five-year average of 66 percent.
Corn and soybean planting was also in full swing, although wet conditions barred farmers from fields in some areas. As more rain fell after last week’s severe storms, soils were left saturated across central Wisconsin.
In several counties, hail damage, soil erosion and ponding were reported as the week keep suitable days for fieldwork tamped down to 4.2.
Monday’s report, compiled with input from farm correspondents and ag agents across the state, said frost damage to fruit crop was still being assessed. Depending on the earliness of bloom in local conditions, effects varied from mild to severe.
In Crawford County, the overall freeze damage to the apple crop was tabbed at 20 to 25 percent. Pear and plum crops were hit pretty hard, the reporter said, but grapes seem to be okay. One orchard in the area reported an 80 percent loss on its tart cherry trees, he noted, while another reported very little damage.
The reporting stations marked average temperatures 2 to 4 degrees above normal for the week ending May 13. Average high temperatures ranged from 65 to 70 degrees, with La Crosse notching 82, while average low temperatures ranged from 46 to 49 degrees. Madison and Eau Claire fell to 38.
Precipitation totals included 0.72 inches at La Crosse and 2.61 inches in Milwaukee, while Kenosha County was drenched with over 3 inches of rain on Sunday and Portage County farmers were slowed by nearly 4 inches.
One percent of the state’s soils are now listed as very short on moisture, 5 percent as short and 18 percent have surplus moisture. Grant County is among those that need a little rain, although wet conditions in other areas kept planters off clay soils.
“It is plenty wet now with many farmers not able to do any fieldwork during the week,” the reporter from Shawano County said, although fields that were tiled heavily did see limited action. Winter wheat in the area is looking “very good”, he added, but the cool, wet weather has slowed alfalfa growth considerably.
It was also cold and wet in Outagamie County. “The hay and wheat looked good in March, but now it is too wet,” the reporter noted.
After a wet start to the week for La Crosse County, farmers scurried around the clock to get their corn planted. “Tractors could be heard late into the night as corn planting was first on the mind of the farmers,” the reporter said.
The latter part of the week was great for planting in Juneau County, so farmers made a big push to get their corn and soybeans planted.
Planters were rolling in Fond du Lac County across fields that were not too wet, and planting was in full swing in Columbia County.
There was a flurry of activity in Walworth County fields as farmers planted lots of corn and soybeans, cut hayfields and took some for round bales.
In Rock County, farmers were also making first crop hay, finishing corn planting and planting soybeans. Bugs are in alfalfa so that harvest has begun as well, the reporter said, and corn is popping up, although it is “not setting any records for growth”.
In Dunn County, where water remains standing in low spots after last weekend’s rain, corn is also starting to emerge.
Statewide, 57 percent of the corn crop was planted by week’s end, up from 34 percent last week and slightly ahead of the five-year average of 53 percent. Thirteen percent has emerged.
In Shawano County, corn planted on April 13 is just now starting to emerge.
Several reporters commented that cornfields will need to be replanted after storm damage, the report said, and several noted damaged alfalfa stands will likely be replanted to corn.
A map of winter freeze damage to alfalfa as of May 13 showed 75 percent of the state crop with no damage, 17 percent with light, 6 percent with moderate, and 2 percent with severe damage.
Producers planted soybeans as field conditions permitted, pushing the percentage of the state crop in the ground to 16 percent, up from 5 percent last week and close to the five-year average of 18 percent.
In Barron County, most producers were very close to a wrap on planting.
Farmers finished the week with 94 percent of oat crop in the ground and 72 emerged. Statewide, 83 percent of the crop was labeled in good or excellent condition. Winter wheat was also reportedly looking good across much of the state.
Snap beans were being planted in Trempealeau and Shawano counties, while potatoes were poking up out of the soil in Marquette and Portage Counties.
Early planted peas were labeled in good condition, although asparagus suffered frost damage in Waupaca County.
Strawberry plants were blooming with frost damage reports ranging from light to 50 percent loss in Waupaca County.
In Crawford County, the first bloom on strawberries was lost, but second bloom and third bloom stage are coming on strong and picking should begin within a couple of weeks.
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.