Wisconsin farmers polished off 32 percent of spring tillage last week, far above last year’s average of 5 percent or the five-year average of 10 percent, but frost and freezing conditions put on the brakes in other cropping areas.
Photo By Carole Curtis
Freezing nights put a hit on early crops
Unfortunately for many farmers, the weather forecasts were right. Nighttime temperatures dove into the teens in northern Wisconsin and into the 20s across central Wisconsin last week, putting fruit crops, hay and winter grains in danger.
According the April 17 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report", the full extent of freeze damage varied with budding apple and cherry trees hit the hardest.
Fruit development, as well as small grain and alfalfa, is running 3 to 4 weeks ahead of normal across the state, it noted.
In Door County, where the early warm up pushed orchard and grape development four weeks ahead of normal, apples, cherries and grapes were hard hit by the freezes, the local reporter shared in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
"Growers anticipate losses of 70 percent with more damage likely if we have normal weather over the next few weeks," he said, noting apples appear to be less affected than cherries.
Apple blossoms in Dunn, Door and Vernon counties were also damaged by frost, and Shawano County reporters told of damage to blooming cherry trees.
In Trempealeau County, fruit growers are taking preventative measures to reduce losses on budding trees and vines.
Other reporters spoke of damage in grape vines, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and pears, and some hay fields in Langlade and Trempealeau County suffered winter kill.
Damage to hay and winter wheat varied across the state, with many reporters noting growth has slowed or halted with the colder weather. While a few areas were hit with a killing freeze, the full extent of the damage can't be determined yet.
Alfalfa fields in Grant County survived the winter well, but last week's freezing temperatures have really taken their toll, the reporter said. "The weather this season is backward," he noted.
In Shawano County, where there was very little winter kill of alfalfa or winter wheat, the alfalfa is showing signs of frost/freeze injury with leaf tip necrosis. The quick start to the hay is now stunted back to normal size, the reporter observed.
Alfalfa shoots in Waushara County have also been shut down, the reporter said, and plants will be sending out new shoots. "We have had a week of below freezing night temps with temps as low as 25 or 26 degrees for three or four nights," he noted.
In Washington County, farmers are itchy to get going again, but everything is at a standstill because of the cold nights and cold days.
Across the state, soil moisture was 35 percent short to very short, although thunderstorms brought localized heavy rains. The dry conditions boosted fieldwork through the week that offered 5.7 suitable days, although many reporters said rain is needed.
It's driest in the northwest section of Wisconsin, where soil moisture conditions as of April 15 were marked at 21 percent very short and 46 percent short, while the west central district had 9 percent very short and 43 percent short.
Precipitation totals for the week ranged from 0.01 inches in Green Bay and 0.48 inches in La Crosse to 1.0 inches in Waushara County. Richland County was among those with very dry conditions until a much needed rain fell last weekend.
For the week ending April 15, stations reported average temperatures of 1 to 5 degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 56 to 59 degrees, with Eau Claire, Green Bay and Madison topping out at 73 degrees.
Average low temperatures ranged from 32 to 37 degrees, although Eau Claire dropped to 24 degrees, La Crosse to 26 and Madison to 29 degrees.
Spring work picked up a bit in Rusk County last week, while the big job was manure hauling and primary tillage "with a decent push on oats", the reporter said.
Although the calendar looks a little better, he added, snow in the forecast and a tight corn seed supply means most farmers are holding off on planting.
In Clark County, where the alfalfa and winter grain crops "look excellent", manure hauling was also the main item on the agenda as farmers are concerned about soil temperatures and crop insurance dates.
Nearly all the manure has been hauled in Marathon County and spring tillage is starting, although the ginseng has not sprouted and it's too cold to plant anything other than small grains.
Maple syrup production in the county was half of what it was the year before, and had a very dark color, the reporter noted.
By week's end, Wisconsin farmers had finished 32 percent of their spring tillage, well above last year's mark of 5 percent and the five-year average of 10 percent.
A chart comparing levels over the past 10 years show 2012 and 2012 towering above the rest, with only 19 percent in 2004 and 18 percent in 2005 anywhere close.
Many producers were busy applying liquid manure and nitrogen, and direct seeding of alfalfa continued. Potatoes were being planted in Dane, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca and Waushara and Dane counties.
The dry conditions translated to nearly half of the state's crop of oats being planted before the third week of April, far ahead of last year's average of 8 percent, and the five-year average of 17 percent.
The report set oat emergence at 10 percent, 12 days ahead of the five-year average.
Farmers planted 2 percent of the state's corn crop, compared to zeros in both last year's column and the five-year average column.
Test field plantings ere reported across the state with planting only beginning in earnest in the Southeast, the report said, adding most producers are holing off due to low soil temperatures, crop insurance dates and continued frost danger.
In Dunn County, many farmers are reportedly ready to plant corn, but they are being cautious due to the cost to put the crop in.
The "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" is compiled weekly at the Wisconsin Field Office in Madison under the direction of Robert Battaglia. It 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.