Wisconsin's weather finally cooperated with farmers last week, providing almost six full days suitable for fieldwork.
"Finally, a few days without rain," an Eau Claire reporter said in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending July 20.
The rural landscape bustled with machinery and fieldwork levels soared during the welcome stretch of dry and breezy days. The week was on the cool side, though, with temperatures marked 4 to 7 degrees below normal. Daytime highs topped out in the 70s and overnight temperatures early in the week fell into the 40s.
For the week, average high temperatures ranged from 76 to 78 degrees, while average low temperatures fell between 54 and 58 degrees. Madison dropped to 48 degrees, while Eau Claire dipped to 45. In Oneida County, sprinkle irrigation was turned on two nights to protect the cranberries from frost.
With precipitation totals ranging from 0.03 inches in Eau Claire, 0.24 inches in Madison and 0.65 inches in Oneida County, topsoil moistures fell from the previous week's average of 25 percent surplus to 16 percent surplus.
Continued periodic rains in Ashland County held fieldwork progress at slow, but other areas needed precipitation. In Waushara County, unirrigated fields were showing signs of moisture stress, including leaf curling.
"We need moisture. We could use a good shower for the oats, corn and beans," a Burnett County reporter said.
The report shared farmers' concerns that crop maturity was lagging behind due to this season's overall cool temperatures.
"The corn is progressing, but it is still 7 to 10 days behind in many fields," a Chippewa County reporter said.
Beans are way behind in Washburn County, although there is a good crop of shoulder-high corn. In Kewaunee County, the corn and soybeans are finally showing progress, although the corn seems to be taking better advantage of the recent heat than the soybeans are.
The county's corn crop is uneven and soybeans are short. "In some areas, the corn is just starting to tassel, while not too far away, it's just now getting to ankle and knee height," the reporter said. "And it will be interesting to see how tall the soybean plants will eventually get and whether there will be any problems in harvesting them because of their height."
Across the state, late plantings, heavily saturated soils and prevented spraying have contributed to uneven corn and soybean conditions from field to field. Although crops remain in good condition on average, the report said, sun and heat are still needed to promote pollination and grain development.
In Dane County, blackcap raspberries are doing well with all the moisture, but the weather has been too cold and too wet to bring on the small grain harvest or even predict how the wheat and oats will yield. The corn fields look very uneven, with yellowing in spots.
"The nitrogen is gone that goes on the corn," a reporter said. "It will not tassel and silk out. I have never seen anything like this in my life."
For Kewaunee County, the middle week of July was warm and dry with low humidity. "It made for nearly ideal conditions for hay-making," the reporter shared.
The Columbia County reporter made the same assessment, except for Tuesday. "Farmers were able to make some excellent quality second-crop hay," he said.
The state's second cutting of alfalfa progressed rapidly from 44 percent complete to 66 percent complete by week's end. While still below the five-year average of 74 percent, it beats last year's mark of 56 percent complete by July 20.
The yield and quality of the second cutting was good, the report said, but difficult field conditions meant that some producers were finishing up first cutting, while others were beginning their third cutting.
The condition of the state's hay fields, as well as pastures, was tagged at 88 percent in good to excellent condition. Blackcap raspberries were doing very well in Dane County.
In Chippewa County, some third crop alfalfa had leaf hopper populations above the threshold, while Washington County reported lots of rust in the oats and Dane County reported quite a bit of fungus in the wheat fields. The recent dry weather should help, that reporter added, although there is heavy dew every morning. "Never dries out," he observed.
As of July 20, 22 percent of the state's corn crop was silking, up from last year's 16 percent, but well below the five-year average of 31 percent. The report rated corn condition at 76 percent good to excellent.
Soybeans moved above average with 46 percent blooming and 10 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year average of 41 percent blooming and 6 percent setting pods. The condition of the crop was rated 75 percent good to excellent.
In the oat fields, 95 percent were heading, 53 percent were turning color and seven percent had been harvested. For comparison, the five-year average is 97 percent headed and 14 percent harvested on July 20. The statewide condition of the crop was marked 81 percent good to excellent.
Several reporters noted oats and other small grains were being cut for forage.
Just over 90 percent of the state's wheat crop was turning color with 4 percent harvested for grain. The report marked 73 percent of the crop in good to excellent condition.
In Crawford County, the apple orchards look good, and the trees hold a lot of fruit. The county has been fortunate and missed the bad storms, the reporter shared, although some tributary bottoms suffered flash floodings in June. Some of these areas are recovering, but some will not.
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.