Unfavorable weather conditions continued last week with spotty showers frequent enough and thunderstorms strong enough to interrupt fieldwork and annoy farmers across Wisconsin, but not wet enough to combat increasingly dry soil conditions.
According to the latest "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report," topsoil moistures fell from 23 percent short to very short on July 25 to 33 percent by Aug. 4.
Unirrigated crops were in trouble in St. Croix County, soybeans were burning up on the sand knolls of Trempealeau County and irrigation systems were running in many parts of the state.
"We need rain," the Iowa County reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
In Green County, corn and soybeans on shallow soils are stressed by drought. "We dug four soil pits in a pasture on Tuesday, July 29," the reporter said. "There was no moisture in the upper 2 feet of ground."
The statewide situation was compounded by continued cool temperatures. Average temperatures for the week ending August 3 came in 2 to 4 degrees below normal, with highs in the 70s and 80s and overnight lows in the 50s. Both Eau Claire and Green Bay marked lows of 51 degrees.
The ongoing lack of heat units, combined with the dry soil conditions, was holding corn development behind normal, the report said, especially for late planted fields. Heat and a nice shot of rain are needed, reporters chorused.
"A little warm weather would sure speed crops along a little faster," the Ozaukee County reporter said.
In Clark County, where each day seemed to end with a rain shower, the reporter said the spotty showers limited hay drying and the harvest of winter small grains. "The corn is tasseling, but 2014 is short on growing degree days," he said. "We need some heat for the corn."
Statewide, 68 percent of corn was silking with 8 percent in or past dough stage on Aug. 3. While that's above last year's respective marks of 64 percent and 5 percent, it lags the five-year averages of 76 percent silking and 12 percent in or past dough stage.
Snap beans and sweet corn development were also behind normal, but cranberries were setting fruit, and scouting reports indicated yields will be above average.
Soybeans also remained above average with 79 percent blooming and 45 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year averages of 76 percent blooming and 36 percent setting pods. Last year, 65 percent of soybeans were blooming and 22 percent were setting pods on August 3.
The small grains harvest and haying proceeded, although showers and heavy morning dews limited the time farmers could spend in the fields. All told, there were 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork, with total precipitation ranging from 0.35 inches in Eau Claire to 1.25 inches in Milwaukee.
In a few places, the hit-or-miss storms sparked damage. Hail fell in eastern Ozaukee County and in Sawyer County, where some of the pockets of rain moving through produced pea-sized hail and high winds. There was some damage to crops, that reporter said, but it was not very widespread.
In the state's winter wheat fields, 47 percent of the crop had been harvested for grain, while 83 percent of the oat crop was turning color. By week's end, 23 percent of the state's oats had been harvested for grain, compared to the five-year average of 38 percent.
Crops are looking good in Sawyer County. "Oats, rye and wheat all look the best they have in many years," the reporter said, although some corn smut was showing up.
The pea harvest was complete in Portage County with good yields reported, while the snap bean harvest was underway with average yields.
Condition-wise, the report rated 72 percent of the state's corn crop, 71 percent of soybeans, 78 percent of oats and 73 percent of winter wheat in good to excellent condition as of Aug. 3.
While corn in Waukesha County was measuring 7.5 feet tall, in Trempealeau County and Marinette County, the crop was uneven in many areas. On the lighter soil, the corn made good progress, the Marinette County reporter said, but dry conditions throughout July have stressed the plants.
In Door County, the corn was described as "way behind" and could use more rain, while it is finally beginning to tassel in Manitowoc County.
Although most irrigated crops in St. Croix County are suffering, the reporter felt they could still recover somewhat with a good rain. Some very scattered showers have helped, he noted.
The state's potatoes were marked 89 percent in good to excellent condition, but the amount of pasture in good to excellent condition fell 11 percentage points to finish the week at 67 percent.
With hay fields rated 84 percent in good to excellent condition, state farmers polished off 90 percent of second cutting of alfalfa, matching the five-year average. Twenty-two percent of third cutting was also in the barn or bags, a bit behind the five-year average of 28 percent but well above last year's mark of 13 percent.
In Rusk County, there were lots of brown round bales sitting out. "There's lots of hay out there, but the quality is not very good," the reporter said.
The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Weather Service and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.