The calendar may say its spring, but heavy snowfall, roof collapses, wet fields and stalled maple syrup taps were the story as the aftermath of one of Wisconsin’s coldest winters on record continued.
In Vilas County, April made its mark with seven inches of new snow. “Add that to the two foot still on the ground and it looks like a late planting season again,” the local reporter said in the first “Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report” of the 2014 growing season.
The document, released April 7, said temperatures were close to average for the first week of April. However, average temperatures ranged from 4 to 14 degrees below normal from December through March.
This allowed deeper persistent snow cover, greater than normal frost depths and near record high ice coverage on lakes and rivers, the April 7 report said.
Reporters across the South and central portions of the state said the snow was disappearing and frost was slowly coming out of the ground.
Many others in the statewide network of reporting farmers and county ag agents noted pastures and winter wheat were slow to green up, making conditions difficult to assess. “Too early to tell on anything here. Still many areas covered in snow!” the Portage County reporter said.
Although a good snow cover remains in most areas In Taylor and Price Counties, fields planted to winter wheat are starting to green up nicely. In Shawano County, the wheat was still brown, while in Columbia County, where most of the snow is gone, the wheat was showing very few signs of greening up yet.
In Kenosha and Racine counties, some areas of fields were reportedly damaged by ice.
Although the only snow remaining in Ozaukee County lies on the north side of fences and buildings, the winter wheat is either still in dormancy or showing very little growth. The rye is greening up, but alfalfa remains dormant. “It’s too cold for anything to grow,” the reporter pointed out.
As of April 6, the report rated the condition of Wisconsin’s pasture and range conditions at 63% very poor to poor and 37% fair to good. Winter wheat was rated 15% very poor to poor, 84% fair to good, and 1% excellent.
In some areas, muddy fields and standing water were reported. Although spring tillage had yet to begin , there were 0.2 days suitable for fieldwork during the week. In Dunn County, where 35% of the land remains snow-covered, some manure was being hauled.
Manure was also being applied in Eau Claire County as needed to make room in storage structures. In the Kenosha/Racine area, where fields were still fairly wet and frost is coming out of the ground rapidly, two producers were seeing fertilizing wheat acres.
On April 3 and 4, storms dumped heavy snow on northern Wisconsin with total accumulations up to 15 inches. In many areas, including Douglas County, the snow cover measured two feet deep and more.
The late spring storm dropped between 10 - 15 inches on Sawyer County, putting snow depth between 24 to 30 inches. “Let’s hope no more buildings collapse with this new wet and heavy snow,” the reporter said.
Reporters across the north told of roof collapses, as the deep snow hampered efforts to assess maple sugar bush. The maple syrup season was underway in Polk County and elsewhere, although the start was later than usual and some reporters said taps were not flowing due to cold temperatures.
In Sawyer County, very little sap has run yet. Given the calendar and forecast, the sap run will likely be limited and short, the reporter said
The winter’s severity has taken a toll with higher than normal livestock fatalities, manure storage structures that are at or near capacity, and some livestock producers contending with tight feed supplies. “The long, cold and snowy winter has stretched feed supplies and a delayed spring green up will further put pressure on feed inventories”, the Sawyer County reporter noted.
Average temperatures reported for the week were 2 degrees below normal to 1 degree above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 45 to 51 degrees, with La Crosse topping out at 68 degrees and Madison marking 65.
Average low temperatures were marked between 26 to 30 degrees, with Eau Claire sinking to 18 degrees and La Crosse bottoming out at 21.
Precipitation totals ranged from 0.09 inches in Milwaukee to 1.27 inches in Eau Claire. In Kewaunee County, snow remained in drifted areas of fields, while water ponded in other areas.
The state’s average level of topsoil moisture was 66 percent adequate, 30 percent surplus and 4 percent short. Every district marked a surplus, ranging from 14% in the southwest district and 15% in the south central district to 52% in the east central district and 56% in the northeast district.
However, the reporter from Marinette County observed, it was difficult to calculate subsoil and topsoil moisture in soil that is frozen solid. “Even with predicted warmth next week, it will probably be a fair while before field work gets started”, he added.
Winter was still holding tight in Richland County. “There has not been a chance to get into the fields at this point. There is still a lot of frost in the ground,” that reporter shared.
The ground was also still frozen and patches of snow remained in Sauk County. “Though it was a long winter and it seemed like a lot of snow, we may find we are low on moisture,” the reporter said.
The weekly “Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition 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.