Waiting hard for rain
Wisconsin is in sore need of rain.
On July 16, the Wisconsin Crop Progress Report marked soil moisture levels over 50 percent short in eight of the state’s nine districts, 95 percent or more short in five districts, and over 90 percent very short in the southeast and south-central districts.
Pasture conditions ranged from 77 to 100 percent poor to very poor in the five driest districts. Reporters in these areas relayed that livestock operations are considering reducing their herds due to lack of forage.
Crawford County is now in a D1 drought, while some Juneau County producers are reportedly looking for hay in several states and having a hard time finding any for sale because the drought is so extensive.
Wherever moisture was inadequate, the state’s vegetable and fruit crops were suffering along with the field crops.
According to the report, spotty rain and scattered thunderstorms during the week did little to maintain soil moisture. Hail damage was reported in Oneida and Shawano counties.
“We got 12 drops of rain this morning,” the reporter from Grant County shared in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
Scattered storms raced across Florence County late in the week, but dropped very little rain. The reporter, making post holes for fence, had to use a hand digger behind the digger because the bone-dry dirt wouldn’t stay on the auger as it lifted.
Second crop hay and pastures are very poor, corn is struggling, lawns and gardens are brown, and there are no wild berries to be seen, he added.
Between a quarter and a half-inch of rain fell on most of Juneau County, but it was “incredibly spotty” with amounts varying from nothing to over an inch within a few miles. “It was just enough to keep some crops green for a few more days”, the reporter said, adding that it was too little too late for a lot of the crops on lighter soils.
It was the same story in Crawford County, where up to an inch of beneficial rain fell on Saturday. Corn planted in sandy or light soils is pretty well done, and soybeans and hay have stopped growing, the reporter said. “Most of the corn in the county is now tasseling, so the next week or so will be extremely critical,” he added.
The extremely dry conditions in Waushara County has that reporter thinking 2012 is looking to be worst than 1988. Although a few showers fell on Saturday, they were barely enough to wet a person’s shirt. “Dryland corn looks pretty tough,” he said. “Irrigated corn looks like corn!”
Washington County was not counted among the lucky ones. “Some areas received rain. Ours did not,” the reporter said.
It is also “extremely, extremely dry” in Dodge County. The apple crop was already poor due to spring frosts and vegetable conditions are as poor as other crops, the reporter commented.
But weeds are still growing and bugs are abundant in the alfalfa, he added; second crop alfalfa yields were reduced and third crop will be extremely low.
Prayers for rain in Ozaukee County have not been answered, that reporter lamented. It is very dry and there is very little third crop hay, he said.
Officially, precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.01 inches in Madison to 0.74 inches in Milwaukee.
Burnett County welcomed a nice half inch of rain, and Polk County got a rain shower at the end of the week that helped with needed moisture. Overall, the county’s crops are reportedly looking well and alfalfa/hay yields have been favorable.
Pepin County also got rain. “We are thankful,” the reporter shared.
Crops were growing well in northern Wisconsin and where irrigation was available, the report noted, but additional moisture is urgently needed for pollination.
In Waupaca County, the raspberry crop was labeled “excellent” and, in Oneida County, the cranberry crop was reportedly “looking strong”, thanks to well-timed rain and irrigation.
The report covering the week ending July 15 at 7 a.m. said temperatures remained above average for the span, although daytime highs were significantly cooler than in the first week of July. The week offered 6.8 days suitable for fieldwork.
Average temperatures for the second week in July were marked three to five degrees above normal, with average highs ranging from 84 to 90 degrees. Green Bay, La Crosse and Madison hit 92 degrees, while Eau Claire and Milwaukee topped 91.
Corn was 36 percent silked statewide by week’s end, well above last year’s mark of seven percent and the five-year average of 13 percent. The average height was 63 inches, compared to 53 inches last year and the five-year average of 58 inches.
Reporters from the driest parts of the state commented that some corn was tasseling without producing silks. Lots of leaf curling was reported in Marathon County, while corn was being chopped for silage in Rock County.
Soybeans were 39 percent blooming, up from 16 percent last week, 23 percent last year, and the five-year average of 29 percent.
A chart tracking bloom by district showed the northeast district with 86 percent in bloom and the north-central district with 65 percent. The northwest district was the lowest at 23 percent and other districts hovered around the average.
Five percent of the state’s crop was setting pods, running ahead of last year’s mark of zero and the five-year average of two percent.
The small grain harvest was well underway with good yields reported on winter wheat and rye. Reporters commented that winter wheat yields were better than expected. Yield reports ranged from 40-100 bushels per acre.
Eau Claire County reported good wheat yields of 72 bushels per acre and excellent rye yields of 74 bushels per acre. In Outagamie County, wheat was yielding between 80 and 100 bushels per acre.
The wheat harvest was almost complete in Ozaukee County with farmers posting yields all over the board, ranging from 50 to 85 bushels per acre. In Dodge County, farmers are finishing up a “very good” crop.
Several reporters noted that straw harvested was very clean and of good quality.
Farmers polished off 30 percent of this year’s oat harvest. Last year, the harvest had yet to begin by July 15, while the five-year average stands at a mere 2 percent. Reporters expected harvest to accelerate in the coming week.
The state’s second cutting of hay was 94 percent harvested by the end of the week, far above last year’s mark of 67 percent and the five-year average of 57 percent. In Sheboygan County, yields on second cutting hay were reportedly very low, making it expensive to harvest.
One quarter of third cutting was already in the barn, whereas the harvest had yet to begin by this date last year. The five-year average also stands at zero.
Both second and third crop were of good quality in Marathon County, but poor quantity due to lack of rain and munching insects.
In Pierce County, where crop progress continues well ahead of average, dairy farmers reported good to excellent quality and yields on third cutting alfalfa.
In Ashland County, where corn is still recovering from previous flooding, farmers were busy baling first crop.
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.