Rain for some, heat for all
Finally, it came. Much-needed, much-requested rain fell across parts of Wisconsin last week.
The June 25 issue of the “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” said northern sections of the state were drenched with up to six inches, enough to cause flooding and leave fields gleaming with standing water.
Moisture conditions switched swiftly for some farmers.
“It changed so fast from short to surplus. We got five or six inches of rain,” the reporter for Marathon County relayed in the document created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents.
Buffalo County welcomed four inches of rain. “Much appreciated,” that reporter observed, while St. Croix County got “a lot of nice rain. Everything is coming up really good”, that reporter shared.
Heavy rains fell in Barron County, while Washburn County got over six inches. The old hay fields and fruit are now growing nicely, the reporter said, while new growth, blueberries and second crop alfalfa all look good.
Variable amounts of rain fell across Florence County. While corn got a very good bump because of the warm humid nights, grains are reportedly short and the rain may have come too late to do any real good.
“We’re expecting to see low numbers at harvest,” the reporter noted.
It was over the top in Ashland County, however, as heavy rains fell with up to nine inches in 24 hours swamping the northwest part of the county. “Crops in low-lying areas of fields have been severely damaged,” the reporter said.
The rains were lighter across central Wisconsin and spotty in the south, meaning the dry conditions continue unabated.
Although crops perked up with the moisture, the report noted, southern Wisconsin needs additional rain badly.
“There is a severe lack of moisture in this county,” the Green Lake reporter shared, while the Grant County reporter lamented, “We just can’t get any rain!”
Late planted crops are stunted in Dodge County, although the weeds continue to grow, and the extreme dryness in Sauk County reminds some farmers of the summer of 1988.
Waukesha County’s reporter summed it up quite tersely. “Corn looks bad. Alfalfa is brown. Soybeans are not moving. All lawns are brown,” he said. “Flat out, we need rain.”
In Rock County, where the wheat harvest has begun with low yields and good test weights, crop conditions “worsened significantly” over the week. “No rain this week will result in some acres not producing anything,” the reporter said.
Farmers in many areas were treating fields for cutworm, armyworm and leafhopper infestations, although rain and winds hampered spraying for some through the week that offered 4.8 days suitable for fieldwork statewide.
Reported average temperatures for the week were three to nine degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 82-88 degrees, with Madison topping 95 and Milwaukee hitting 94 degrees.
In Crawford County, apple and other fruit trees are reportedly dropping fruit in the face of the hot, dry conditions. The heat was also fingered for this year’s strawberry season being shorter than usual.
Wisconsin’s corn crop hit an average height of 28 inches by June 24, a bump of 10 inches from last week and six inches above the five-year average.
Although the corn was described as “looking good” in Monroe County and other areas where moisture was adequate, reporters in the south told of poor emergence, uneven fields and signs of plant stress due to lack of moisture.
The state’s second cutting of hay was 42 percent harvested by week’s end, a level the report pointed out was 34 percentage points above the previous record year. Last year, the second cutting had not yet commenced by June 24, while the five-year average is a mere two percent.
In the north, haying halted in the wake of the heavy rains, while in the south, regrowth for third crop was reported as slow because of the droughty conditions.
In Florence County, first crop was about 50 percent of normal at best, and second crop needs more rain to increase tonnage and quality. “It comes down to needing much more rain than we have been getting to really turn things around,” the reporter said.
Second crop yields in Juneau County reflect the “very spotty” rain patterns across the area, with amounts ranging from a few tenths of an inch to 1.2 inches. It has been so dry, the reporter relayed, that one farmer fertilized his hay after cutting first crop and could still find the granulars after cutting second crop.
Corn and soybeans have gotten just enough moisture to say green, he added, noting soybeans are hurting more than corn in most places. “Ninety degree heat without rain this week will really stress the crops,” he predicted.
Growers in Winnebago County are marking low yields for second crop, as are farmers in Door County, where it’s going on four weeks without any rain. Corn and soybeans have held up well, the reporter said, but some peas are short, matured too fast and may get passed.
Overall, the report rated soybeans at 60 percent in good to excellent condition, but pointed out that their condition was 30 percent poor to very poor in the south-central district and 44 percent poor to very poor in the southeast district.
Soybeans responded well to additional moisture, reporters agreed, but weed pressure was high where weather conditions prevented timely spraying.
Statewide, oats were 89 percent headed by week’s end, far above last year’s mark of 29 percent and the five-year average of 53 percent, and leading by at least 11 percentage points over marks set over the past 10 years. In Grant and Trempealeau Counties, farmers were poised to begin harvest this week.
Winter wheat was ripening quickly with farmers in southern Wisconsin anticipating harvest within the next two weeks, although Brown County farmers are looking at fields of “very short” wheat.
Wherever rain did fall, fruit and vegetable crops were boosted, the report observed, noting the cranberry crop was looking strong with all varieties blooming in Oneida County.
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.