Farmers remain anxious and sidelined as the 2013 crop year continues to set records, all in the wrong direction.
As temperatures rose into the upper 80s and low 70s statewide for the first time in 2013, the April 29 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" said the amount of spring tillage completed is the lowest and oats are off to the latest start in the 30 years that Crop Progress data has been collected.
"Everyone is waiting," the reporter from Clark County said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents around the state, while the Buffalo County reporter figured fieldwork wouldn’t start before May 6, a good 30 days behind last year.
As it stands, some of the growing season has already been lost the reporter from Langlade County observed, while the Crawford County report said the forecasted rain might significantly delay corn and soybeans plantings and reduce yield potential.
"Farmers are beginning to get apprehensive about how late it is getting and they have not gotten anything planted yet," the Washington County reporter shared.
When the week closed out Sunday, April 28, at 7 a.m., only 4 percent of spring tillage had been completed, breaking the previous record low of 9 percent on that date in 2011. It’s a far cry from the 56 percent of spring tillage farmers had polished off last year or the five-year average of 36 percent.
By the end of last week, a mere five percent of oats had been planted by week’s end, breaking the previous record low of 7 percent in 1993. Last year, farmers had 77 percent of the state’s oat crop planted by April 28, while the five-year average stands at 51 percent.
Over the past 10 years, five years have fallen below the 10-year average on April 28 of 55 percent. Farmers had 14 percent planted in 2011, 17 percent planted in 2008, 50 percent planted in 2007 and 43 percent planted in 2003.
The report noted that this year, no oats had been planted in the northwest, north central, west central and southeast districts by April 28, while 1 percent had been planted in the northeast, central and east-central districts. The southwest district had 14 percent planted, while the south central district led the list with 18 percent of oats in the ground.
Planting was delayed in parts of southern Wisconsin by low soil temperatures and wet field conditions, the report said, and water pooling up in wheat and hayfields remained a concern. In Buffalo County, the extensive ponding will probably affect alfalfa, the reporter shared.
The week did offer more days suitable for fieldwork with 1.4 days of good weather, up from the 0.1 percent and 0.0 of the two weeks before. But, although temperatures rose in general, snow fell in northern Wisconsin in the middle of the week and frost remains in places.
Barron County reported pockets of frost in some fields, while Chippewa County sports the occasion snow pile in shaded areas. The Vilas County reporter said the snow is starting to melt there, while fence rows in Eau Claire County still hold snow.
More warm dry days are needed to jumpstart this growing season, the report said, noting farmers statewide are waiting anxiously for conditions to improve.
Across the reporting stations, average temperatures for the week were marked at normal to 5 degrees below normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 54-59 degrees, with La Crosse topping 74, while average low temperatures range from 32-38 degrees, with Eau Claire dipping to 24 degrees and Green Bay and La Crosse to 27.
"We are waiting for warm weather to arrive," the reporter from Door County observed.
Precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.02 inches in Madison to 0.7 inches in Eau Claire. Topsoil moisture levels averaged 71 percent adequate, 4 percent short and 25 surplus, while subsoil moistures now average 71 percent adequate, 17 percent short and 11 percent surplus.
"The previous year’s drought effects are no longer evident," the reporter from Barron County observed.
Alfalfa has been very slow to break dormancy this year due to below average temperatures. In Outagamie County, a few days of 65 degree temperatures had coaxed a bit of green color from winter wheat and alfalfa fields.
Pasture conditions were slowly improving with 44 percent in fair to excellent condition by week’s end, compared to 31 percent the week before. However, 32 percent of the state’s pastures are rated in very poor condition and 24 percent remain in poor condition.
In Chippewa County, pastures were just starting to green up, but they had not responded yet in Dodge County. "We need more warm weather," the reporter pointed out.
Winter wheat was greening up in most areas, although it was still too early to accurately judge winterkill. In Fond du Lac County, where the winter wheat and alfalfa are finally showing signs of life, low spots appear dead, while Crawford County reported some alfalfa, winter wheat and rye showing signs of winterkill.
There was also evidence of winterkill in alfalfa and winter wheat in Dane County. Combined with the delay in oats and alfalfa plantings, the reporter said, more new alfalfa seedings are likely this spring.
Producers were also walking their winter wheat fields in Dodge County, assessing winterkill, as they made the decision whether to keep them are not.
The maple syrup season continued in some areas, with excellent yields reported. In Barron County, the maple syrup season turned out very good, both in quantity and quality, the reporter said, but sap collection really slowed down by week’s end.
In Portage and Waushara counties, a few producers were planting potatoes, while farmers in Marquette County had just started getting into their fields. In Waushara County, where snow lingered along fence lines and under trees, some processing peas were being planted.
The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" 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. It is compiled at the Wisconsin field office in Madison by state statistician Greg Bussler.