Last week started out on a promising note with temperatures on the rise, a good breeze drying the fields and alfalfa waking up, but it ended on an extremely soggy note.
A weekend surge of rain and snow rolled back the forward progress, pushing topsoil moisture levels up and dragging seeding and fieldwork to a standstill. "Spring showed up for a little while, but four inches of rain and six inches of snow over the weekend put a halt to any idea of fieldwork," the reporter from Juneau County shared in the latest "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report".
The report covering the week ending April 13 put precipitation totals, as of 7 a.m. Sunday, in a range from 0.20 inches in Madison to 1.78 inches in La Crosse. The wet conditions pushed the state's average topsoil moisture level to 34 percent surplus, up from 30 percent the previous week.
It was particularly wet in the east central district where the surplus was marked at 56 percent, and the central district where it was 50 percent. In Manitowoc County, where cold and rain continue to stall fieldwork, the southern part of the county suffered some storm damage from straight-line winds on Saturday.
Conditions are also squishy in Marathon County. Some rivers were flooding into low-lying fields and manure spreaders and combines were being buried daily in the fields.
Dodge County reported 4.5 inches of rain over two days. "The frost is out of the ground as the first round of rain soaked in instead of running off," the reporter observed in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
Although the frost was finally leaving the earth in northern parts of the state, the vanishing snow cover was replenished with a fresh coating late Sunday night. "We just can't get away from winter," the Florence County reporter commented.
In Vernon County, the bluebirds, killdeer and robins have returned. Farmers were hauling manure and Amish teams were working the earth before soaking rains began and three inches of heavy wet snow followed.
Washington County saw it all, with rain, hail and snow flurries bearing down over the weekend.
For most, working the fields was not possible for the majority of the week. On average, the report noted, there were 1.5 days deemed suitable for fieldwork, up from the previous week's 0.2 days. "Farmers are getting equipment prepped for spring activity, but we'll have to wait for fields to dry," the Clark County reporter said.
As they waited for more conducive conditions, farmers were deciding whether to harvest the remainder of last year's standing corn and soybean crop. "There were a large number of corn and soybean acres not harvested last fall that will need to be assessed to determine if it is economical to harvest this spring," the Clark County reporter added.
By April 13, a mere 1 percent of the state's spring tillage had been finished, a bit more than last year's mark of 0 percent, but seriously lagging the five-year average of 8 percent.
A bit of work was done. In a few parts of the state, manure was being spread on drier soils with operators hauling where they could. Growers had begun seeding oats, but were well behind the five-year average of 21 percent.
In Chippewa County, some corn harvest resumed in areas where frost remained, while storage shortage prompted some manure hauling in Shawano County. In Green County, some farmers got started with spring tillage on lighter soils, some oats were planted and livestock farmers got busy hauling manure.
In Trempealeau County, rye fields and pastures sloping south were showing green and some preplant anhydrous went down toward the end of the week. There was some discing of corn stalks in Waushara County and Amish farmers were seen plowing near Coloma, but that, the reporter noted, was before three inches of rain fell over the weekend.
In Fond du Lac County, two heavy inches of rain kept the lid on. "Manure applications have been the only field tasks carried out since the retreat of this winter's glacier," the reporter commented.
At least the week was warmer, with reported average temperatures marked 5-8 degrees above normal. Average high temperatures ranged from 57-63, with La Crosse and Madison topping out at 69. Average low temperatures fell between 33-38 degrees, with Eau Claire dipping to 26 degrees and Madison to 28.
The state's stream of maple sap was running close to average in the middle and southern parts of the state, but was labeled slow to average in the north due to the season's delayed start. In Clark County, the disappearing snow made moving in the woods and sap collection much easier, but in Barron County, the maple trees had already broken bud and most maple sap collectors were taking down their buckets.
Reports of winter wheat and alfalfa beginning to turn green were welcome signs to many, the report said. In Barron County, where snow still lingered along the woods, the winter rye and wheat were greening up nicely. Grass, alfalfa and wheat were also showing green in Walworth County, sparked by the weekend's heavy rains.
Statewide, winter wheat was marked at 37 percent in good to excellent condition, a bit better than the previous week's 33 percent, while pasture condition was 60 percent poor to very poor, a bit better than the previous week's mark of 63 percent.
As the week ended, apple pruning was wrapping up in the northern part of the state.
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.