The tap has been turned off. After weeks of seemingly endless rain, Wisconsin dried out as a second week of dry, breezy weather sent moisture levels tumbling.
"Two weeks ago, it seemed like it rained every day. Now, we could use some," the Barron County reporter commented in the July 28 "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report."
According to the report, the state's topsoil moisture fell sharply from 9 percent short to very short on July 20 to 23 percent short to very short on July 27. It is the first time this season that short soil moisture levels hit the double digits.
The document was filled with comments from reporters statewide that said crops on light soils were in need of moisture.
In Rock County, the corn looks stressed under the drought conditions, the reporter shared; the soil is cracked and dry, and the gravel knolls are starting to shrivel and yellow. Yield will not be optimal, he observed.
The weekend spat of spotty showers provided little relief, although Florence County reported that rain on Sunday across most of the county had already made a huge difference in crop condition. This was not so, however, in Shawano County, where a couple tenths of rain left the land still very dry.
For the week, precipitation totals were reported between 0.00 inches in Green Bay and 0.54 inches in La Crosse.
Inadequate soil moisture was a concern with both corn and soybeans in the midst of pollination. Rain is needed to ensure good ear and pod development, the report said, and to help late planted fields catch up.
"Most of the corn is silking, and the lack of rain could create issues with yield," said the Richland County reporter, adding those dry conditions meant a lot of hay was made.
The week ended with 44 percent of the state's corn crop silking, compared to 39 percent last year and the five-year average of 55 percent. Corn condition was marked 72 percent good to excellent.
In Sheboygan County, much of the corn crop is very uneven and the growth delayed because of the wet, cool growing season. It was the same in Barron County, where some corn is tasseling, while some late planted corn is only a foot tall. "I don't think it will even make good silage," that reporter said.
Winnebago County also had concerns. "Around here, every thing's so late," the reporter said. "Hope we don't get an early frost."
On the bright side, the week provided just over six days of clear, hot weather that allowed state farmers to catch up on chemical and fertilizer applications and make dry hay.
Bayfield and Douglas counties reported that the dryer week allowed farmers to make good progress on first crop baling, while larger dairy operations have been busy chopping second crop. Excellent yields were reported.
In La Crosse County, haymaking was ongoing with second harvest beginning immediately after first and a few farmers already at work on third cutting.
By July 27, 81 percent of the second cutting of alfalfa and 8 percent of third cutting had been polished off, beating last year's marks of 73 percent of second and 4 percent of third but lagging the five-year average of 84 percent of second and 15 percent of third.
Waupaca County reported both quantity and quality of the dry hay being made was excellent, but the soil is dry and fields need rain to get regrowth going for third crop.
The hay harvest was also proceeding in a timely manner across Grant County, while Sheboygan County reported a good second crop.
For the last full week of July, average reported temperatures ranged from 3 degrees below to 2 degrees above normal. Average highs fell between 79 and 85 degrees F, with Eau Claire marking 90 degrees F; Green Bay and La Crosse hitting 91; and Madison topping out at 93.
The state's soybeans were doing well. They remained ahead of average with 65 percent blooming and 25 percent setting pods, compared to the five-year averages of 60 percent blooming and 18 percent setting pods. The report rated the crop at 74 percent in good to excellent condition.
Meanwhile, the state harvest of small grains took off.
Winter wheat was 98 percent turning color with 22 percent harvested for grain — well above last week's mark of 4 percent harvested. In Dodge County, wheat yields were running about 70 bushels per acre and the test weight about 61 pounds per bushel.
The report marked the crop at 74 percent in good to excellent condition, but there were some problems with mold and disease. In Kenosha County, yields were good, but with the wet, cold spring and foggy days, toxin levels are high. "It's over the USDA limits. Nobody wants the grain because of this," the reporter added.
In the state's oat fields, 67 percent of the crop was turning color and 12 percent had been harvested for grain, lagging the five-year average of 23 percent harvested for grain by July 27. Statewide, oats were rated 80 percent in good to excellent condition.
Potatoes continued to do well, with 93 percent of the state's crop rated in good to excellent condition. Hay fields also looked good, with 85 percent marked in good to excellent condition, but the condition of pastures declined from 88 percent in good to excellent condition to 78 percent by week's end.
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.