Hard frost painted Wisconsin last week as temperatures took a nosedive into unseasonably cold territory and fieldwork remained behind the norm.
According to the latest â€œWisconsin Crop Progress Reportâ€, temperatures for the week ending Oct. 27 averaged six-nine degrees below normal.
Average highs ranged from 44-49 degrees, while average lows were marked between 29-34 degrees. Eau Claire and La Crosse dipped to 24 degrees, while Green Bay sank to 26 degrees and Madison to 27.
Green County was among those experiencing the seasonâ€™s first hard frost. â€œIt was a good thing frost held off this long,â€ the local reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state. â€œYields are better than expected, considering the drought this year again.â€
However, many reporters commented that plant moistures were higher than preferred and that the cold weather was unfavorable for drying.
The harvest of soybeans, corn silage and grain corn chugged along as farmers cleared fields in order to plant winter wheat in good time, although the report pointed out that both harvest and fieldwork indications lagged behind the five-year averages by 5 to 10 points.
â€œThe late spring has translated into a late fall for harvesting. We are weeks behind in some parts of the county,â€ the Dodge County reporter observed. â€œProducers are waiting for the corn and beans to field dry more before harvesting.â€
The second last week of October did offer dry weather and minimal precipitation with 5.3 days classified as suitable for fieldwork statewide. The exception was the far north, where rain and snow showers idled machinery.
â€œIt was not a good week. With the showers and cold, not much fieldwork was done,â€ the Washburn County reporter shared. â€œI was out in the woods checking on deer.â€
Reported precipitation totals ranged from 0.01 inches in Milwaukee to 0.13 inches in Eau Claire.
It was very cold and wet in Florence County with highs in the 30s and a snow/rain mix every day. Soggy soils meant very little field work was done there or on heavy soils in Ashland County. â€œThe continued wet weather has slowed harvests considerably,â€ that reporter commented.
In Barron County, farmers persevered despite the weather. â€œFrost, snow and rain has slowed the harvest, but the weather hasnâ€™t shut it down. Just slowed it,â€ that reporter observed. Some farmers were taking a late fourth crop of hay, he added, although the week didnâ€™t provide any drying weather.
Completing corn harvest
Wet, cold weather also slowed harvests in Chippewa County, where the corn harvest was in full swing with some corn silage being taken. Corn moisture was in the 20-25 percent range, the reporter said.
Meanwhile, Grant County was cool, but dry, and the corn harvest accelerated. In Ozaukee County, corn chopping also moved ahead at full speed after the previous weekâ€™s frost.
By weekâ€™s end, 92 percent of the stateâ€™s crop of corn for grain had matured and 39 percent had been harvested, compared to the five-year average of 95 percent mature and 47 percent harvested.
A look back over the past decade shows other years were lower yet. In 2009, only 10 percent of grain corn had been harvested by Oct. 27, while the mark was 30 percent in 2008, 32 percent in 2004 and 36 percent in 2006.
The dateâ€™s high marks were set last year with 75 percent harvested, 2010 with 70 percent and 2003 with 54 percent.
Reporters observed that the late freeze allowed late-planted corn to mature, although recorded yields were variable due to the dry summer.
â€œWe are thankful for the six weeks of sunny days and warm temperatures from Labor Day to Oct. 15â€, the Waupaca County reporter said. â€œThis helped crops mature after being behind most of the summer.â€
Clark County reported their late killing frost meant late-planted corn improved in quality and yields. â€œWhile it may be still below the county average, it is better than thought a month ago,â€ the reporter noted.
In Florence County, corn silage yields were reportedly â€œvery good and the cobs were large and fullâ€, while in Portage County, the irrigated corn looks great, dry land corn is varied and soybeans appear a little below average.
Although the drier weather had farmers in Vernon County concentrating on harvesting their soybeans, some corn for grain was being delivered to the bins for drying. Early maturing corn was marked in the 19-21 percent range for moisture.
In Door County, moisture levels were still too high for the harvest of dry shell corn, but growers had harvested most of their corn silage. â€œYields look good this year, but test weights are down,â€ that reporter said, adding the apple crop was â€œexcellentâ€.
Soybean harvest, fall tillage well underway
In Pierce County, the corn harvest was advancing, but the soybean harvests had slowed due to increases in moisture.
Statewide, 98 percent of soybeans were dropping leaves and 69 percent had been harvested by Oct. 27, compared to the five-year average of 100 percent dropping leaves and 79 percent harvested.
Walworth County farmers reportedly made good use of the week of â€œlots of sun and windâ€ to push harvests ahead. As the soybean harvest hit full stride with yields ranging from 40-60 bushels per acre, a few producers finished off their corn.
In Ozaukee County, fall planted wheat was reportedly emerging very evenly as farmers continued to harvest some hay. Across the state, 89 percent of fourth cutting alfalfa had been taken, compared to the five-year average of 94 percent
State farmers also polished off 30 percent of the fall tillage, compared to the five-year average of 35 percent.
In Sheboygan County, where farmers dealt with below normal temperatures, west winds, overcast skies and some snow on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 23), plowing conditions were labeled â€œgoodâ€.
The weekly â€œWisconsin Crop Progress Reportâ€ 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.