The weather pattern seems stuck across Wisconsin, with yet another week of spotty precipitation and cooler-than-average temperatures. Farmers are watching the skies and the calendar, wondering whether rain will actually fall and when fall will actually hit.
"The dry weather is limiting corn and beans on light soil. Cool nights are signs of fall and I'm wondering when killing frost will happen," said a Buffalo County reporter in the Aug. 18 "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report".
According to the report, overnight lows for the second full week of August fell into the 40s across much of the state, while daytime highs averaged an unseasonal 80 degrees. Average temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees below normal, with average highs ranging from 76 to 81 degrees and average lows marked between 54 and 60 degrees.
"The weather continues to be unusually cool, and late planted corn is not progressing very rapidly," the Wood County reporter said.
Reporters across the statewide network of contributors were concerned corn was not developing quickly enough. The dry, cool conditions and late planting have contributed to uneven plant heights and maturity, the report said. Heat and precipitation are needed to ensure good cob fill in the coming weeks.
"The corn is very uneven and, in many fields, is just tasseling now," the Shawano County reporter said. "It will take a very late fall to get the corn to maturity."
Sheboygan County growers are calculating heat units needed to mature corn and soybeans before average first frost dates. "As in a race, it will be down to the wire," the reporter said.
Fortunately, field corn in La Crosse County was ripening at a rapid pace. "All in all, farmers were pleased with the progress of their crops this past week," that reporter shared.
In Waupaca County, 1.2 inches of beneficial rain fell both Monday and Saturday. "The rain helped hay significantly but was too late to do much good for the corn," the reporter said.
As of August 17, 67 percent of the state's corn crop was rated in good to excellent condition, a decline of two percentage points from the previous week. Ninety percent of corn had silked with 38 percent in dough stage or beyond, compared to the five-year averages of 94 percent silked and 42 percent in dough or beyond.
Soybeans also declined a bit in condition with 68 percent of the crop rated in good to excellent, compared to 70 percent the previous week. This year's crop maintained a slight lead over the five-year averages of 93 percent blooming and 76 percent setting pods, with 94 percent of beans in bloom and 79 percent setting pods on Aug. 17.
It was another week that began and ended with widespread patchy rain that blessed some areas and bypassed others. This precipitation was badly needed, especially in the Northeast where the report said rainfall for the season and the year to date remain below normal.
Meanwhile, the southwest corner of the state got a mere hint of precipitation, sending soil moistures plummeting.
In Rock County, crops on light soils are severely stressed. "The corn has shut down and ears have dropped way before maturity," the reporter said. "Yields will be impacted."
Everyone in Shawano County got a little rain over the week, "but we could certainly use much more," the reporter added.
Not so in Burnett County, where some of the oats in low spots are drowned out.
In Wood County, the northern portion of the county is dry and the central area has adequate moisture, while the whole of Grant County remained thirsty. "It just continues to be dry, week after week," the Wood County reporter said.
Richland County also needs rain badly. "The very dry conditions are causing crops to go backward," the reporter said. "The corn will likely have some level of pollination issues due to the dry weather."
Barron County received a hefty 4 inches of rain over the week. All crops look good but need heat, the reporter said, noting the snap bean harvest has been average to below average.
With reported precipitation totals ranging from 0.07 inches in La Crosse to 1.5 inches in Eau Claire and 1.64 inches in Green Bay, the state's soil moisture level fell from 43 percent short to very short to 45 percent short to very short on Aug. 17. The condition of pastures echoed the drop, falling 9 percentage points to 46 percent rated good to excellent.
The hayfield rating also slipped 2 points to 79 percent in good to excellent condition, while potatoes rose three points in condition to 78 percent rated good to excellent.
The week did provide six mild and sunny days that facilitated the harvest of small grains, straw and hay.
"This was a good week for getting things done," the La Crosse County reporter commented. Hay was on large wagons going both ways on the highways, and oats and straw were being sold at the mills.
Statewide, farmers were nearing the finish line for winter wheat, with 90 percent harvested for grain, up from 74 percent the previous week.
In Shawano County, the harvest was pretty much done with yields in the 50-80 bushel per acre range, while Clark County reported the winter wheat there "looks awfully gray".
By week's end, 95 percent of the oat crop was turning color, compared to last year's mark of 57 percent and the five-year average of 72 percent. Fifty-five percent had been harvested for grain.
The oat fields have become very weedy, Waupaca County reported, while most crops were still "looking good" in Ashland County and small grains were averaging better than normal yields. In Langlade County, which continues to be very dry in areas, yield and quality of small grains were labeled "decent".
Growers had finished their harvest of winter wheat and oats in Ozaukee County. Both crops reportedly yielded well, but there were reports of vomitoxin in some of the wheat.
Hay fields across the state were bustling as second cutting wrapped up in some areas, third was ongoing, and fourth cutting began in other areas. By week's end, 97 percent of second cutting and 57 percent of third had been taken. For comparison, last year's mark for third cutting harvested by Aug. 17 was 46 percent, and the five-year average was 59 percent.
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.