Winter won’t let go of Wisconsin, hammering the state with another round of snow, cold and rain that stalled farmers for yet another week.
Northern Wisconsin was belted with a vigorous storm that dropped up to 20 inches of snow. The wintry precipitation partnered with freezing overnight temperatures, which gave way to warmer temperatures and widespread rain over the weekend.
The snow cover melted rapidly with the rain, leaving standing water, many fields too muddy to support machinery and farmers wondering when the growing season would really begin.
“It still looks and acts like the middle of March, instead of the latter part of April. There’s no activity, other than watching the snow,” the reporter from Langlade County said in the “Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report” released April 21. The document is created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
Average reported temperatures for the week were 4 to 7 degrees below normal, with highs averaging between 46 and 52 degrees. La Crosse broke 70 degrees and Madison hit 67, but Green Bay maxed out at 55 degrees and Milwaukee at 56. “It’s wet, cold, slow to change,” the reporter from Kenosha concluded.
Average low temperatures ranged from 26 to 31 degrees, with Madison dropping to 18 degrees, Green Bay to 19 and Eau Claire to 20. Precipitation totals ranged from 0.41 inches in Eau Claire to 3 inches in Madison. Dane County reported 3.4 inches of rain and, finally, most of the frost out of the ground.
Burnett County reported over 12 inches of snow , while Washburn County received between 14 and 20 inches on Wednesday and . Ashland and Iron County got between 6 to 12 inches of new snow, pushing coverage back to 100%.
Over a foot of snow fell in Oneida County , as well as a half inch of rain. “The majority the cranberry beds here still have ice on them, and we put a surface flood of water on those vines that were exposed,” that reporter shared.
Six inches of snow came down in Portage County, while Monroe County got 5 inches. In Waupaca County, the 4 inches that fell had melted by the weekend. “The cold, wet weather has delayed farming activities by three weeks,” the reporter observed. “It’s still too early to determine winter kill since alfalfa and winter wheat have not broken dormancy.”
In Door and Monroe Counties, some frost lingered in the ground.
The week ending April 20 offered 1.5 days suitable for fieldwork. Wherever possible, manure spreading and fertilizer applications continued. Some farmers were able to harvest corn left standing last fall, the report said, while others were chopping or disking stalks to clear last year’s cornfields.
Manure hauling and some stalk chopping were getting done in Jackson County, while manure was hauled in Waukesha both weekend days.
Even though it seems slow, farmers are ahead of last year in at least two areas. As of April 20, 2 percent of the state’s oat crop had been planted, up from 0 percent last year, although it seriously lags the five-year average of 35 percent.
Spring tillage was also up from last year. As of April 20, 3 percent had been completed statewide, compared to 1 percent last year.
However, the five-year average is 23 percent of tillage complete by April 20, and the 10 year average is 20 percent. A review of the past decade shows a descending slope of averages for five years, followed by wild swings for the remainder.
In 2004, 30 percent of the state’s spring tillage had been completed on April 20. The average dropped to 28 percent in 2005, 20 percent in 2006, 9 percent in 2007 and 3 percent in 2008. The figure jumped to 23 percent in 2009 and 45 percent in 2010, plummeted to 7 percent in 2011 and soared again to 41 percent in 2012 before crashing to 1 percent last year and 3 percent this year.
The report put the state’s topsoil moisture level at 34 percent surplus for the second week, compared to last year’s mark of 38 percent.
Hay, pasture, winter wheat and winter rye were greening up slowly, although it remains too early to make an accurate assessment of winterkill.
In Dane County, the alfalfa and wheat are greening up, but they’re not out of dormancy yet. “It’s too cold at night, especially for alfalfa,” the reporter said. Because of the cold air temperatures and the soil remaining too cold deep down, the fruit trees aren’t doing much either, he added.
Across the state, pasture conditions improved to 48 percent in poor to very poor, up from 60 percent the previous week.
In Portage County, potato planting had begun. In the far North, maple sap was still running, although reporters said trees in most areas had begun to bud, bringing the sugaring season to an end.
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.