An excellent week for fieldwork brought out farmers en masse across Wisconsin’s cropland, pushing first cutting hay levels to 34 percent complete by May 20, far above the five-year average of 1 percent.
Photo By Carole Curtis
Ideal weather ignites field activity
Tractors rolled across Wisconsin last week as producers took advantage of 6.6 days of dry, sunny weather to till and plant, as well as harvest hay.
According to the "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" for the week ending May 20, temperatures soared into the 90s in many areas as temperatures averaged 5 to 7 degrees above normal.
Eau Claire and La Crosse marked 91 degrees, Madison marked 90 and Green Bay hit 89 during the week when average highs ranged from 74 to 81 degrees.
The heat meant wet soils dried out dramatically and allowed farmers to make excellent progress planting corn, soybeans, potatoes and vegetables.
"A great week to farm!", Waukesha County shared in the document created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents.
Hot weather also matured the hay crop quickly, forcing farmers to multitask.
In Rusk County, where conditions were described as ideal, small grains are done, corn is close to done, soybeans were in full swing and first cutting of hay was underway.
The planting season was "all but done" in Langlade County, while the week provided Taylor County with the perfect opportunity to wrap up much of spring planting, nicely topped off with a rain shower on Sunday.
By week's end, the state's first cutting of hay was 34 percent harvested, well above the 9 percent marked last week, zero for last year, and the five-year average of 1 percent. In the south-central district, producers had harvested 60 percent of first crop and the southwest district was close behind at 58 percent.
With farmers pushing spring tillage to 91 percent complete, 10 percentage points above the five-year average, liquid manure was applied to cleared hayfields.
Severe frost damage
to fruit trees
Preliminary reports on fruit trees indicate severe frost damage to many crops including pears, peaches, plums, currants and tart cherries, the report said, while grape growers reported patchy frost damage.
In Chippewa County, cherry trees have 20 percent of a normal year's set and currants are about a 30 percent set. The rest were frozen, the reporter said.
Damage to apple trees varied, but was typically less severe than to other fruits.
"We will have some crop (of apples and cherries), but it won't be a big one," the reporter from Washburn County shared.
In Taylor County, where hay fields are looking good and winter wheat is looking very good, the fruit trees appear to have been spared. They are not showing significant loss from the cold weather during flowering, that reporter said.
First crop hay
The quality and yield of first crop hay also varied greatly across the state. Lots of hay was harvested in Sauk County, and the harvest was going along "very well" in Dane County. In Winnebago County, early planted corn may look rough, but the hay looks good.
However, in Dodge County where alfalfa weevil is forcing producers to harvest, hay yields are approximately 60 percent of normal tonnage. The first crop is light in Door County, as well as Trempealeau County where it is running about one ton of dry matter per acre on average.
In Rusk County, the first crop was described as short, more mature than it looks and featuring lots of dandelions. In areas with frost damage, the report added, second crop was starting to grow up through the first crop.
For the week, precipitation totals ranged from zero in Eau Claire, Green Bay and La Crosse, to a mere 0.07 inches in Milwaukee. Thirty percent of the state was listed with very short or short soil moisture conditions, compared to 6 percent the previous week.
Although some oats in Waupaca County have yellowed due to excess moisture, short soil moisture was becoming a concern in other areas as fieldwork stirred up dust and soil crusting hampered emergence.
"It's getting quite dry" in Langlade County, with Marathon County among those reporting some cornfields will need rotary hoeing because of the crusting. Topsoils have dried out "dramatically" in Trempealeau County, and drying soils means all the center pivots are running in Marquette County.
The topsoil may be dry and hard in Washington County, but early planted corn has emerged and is up 2 to 3 inches tall.
Statewide, farmers had planted 83 percent of the corn crop by May 20 and reported 37 percent had emerged. That's ahead of the five-year average of 72 percent and up from last year's mark of 55 percent.
In central Wisconsin, some producers were replanting corn drowned or washed away by heavy rain, while some growers in southeast Wisconsin were replanting soybeans damaged by storms.
In Pierce County, heavy rains and severe erosion caused by heavy rains in early May, along with surface compaction caused by land rolling and intensive tillage, means some replanting of corn has been done and more is being considered, the reporter said.
In Lafayette County, some corn planted in late April is being replanted due to the effects of the cold nights. At present, the reported total is around 1,000 acres, most located toward the Illinois border.
By week's end, 47 percent of the state soybean crop had been planted and 6 percent had emerged, compared to the five-year averages of 39 percent planted and 6 percent emerged.
Emergence rates ranged from 15 percent of the planted crop in the central district to zero in the northwest, with planting percentages of 47 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
Nearly 90 percent of the state's oat crop emerged over the week, with 85 percent of the crop rated in good to excellent condition. In Fond du Lac, Dane and Waukesha Counties, winter wheat is reportedly starting to head out earlier than normal.
Squash and pumpkin planting was in full swing in Waupaca County, while Vernon County grape producers were planting starts.
The "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" is compiled weekly at the Wisconsin Field Office in Madison under the direction of Robert Battaglia. It 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.