Summer nosedives into fall
Summer flamed out last week, as fall chills rolled in, rain fell and light frost painted patches across the northern half of the state.
Although the second week of September began with temperatures in the 90s across most of Wisconsin, a sweeping cold front dragged daytime highs down into the 60s.
"Frost has come to the Northwoods, with frost several mornings here at the end of the week," the Rusk County reporter relayed in the Sept. 16 "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report".
Very little corn is mature in the area, so there will be lots of corn silage and some high moisture corn, he added.
The report noted the state median date for the first 32 degree frost falls between Sept. 21-Oct. 10.
For the week, average reported temperatures were marked four-six degrees above normal. Thermometers topped out at 95 degrees in Milwaukee, 94 in Madison, 93 in La Crosse and 90 in Eau Claire and Green Bay.
They bottomed out at 37 degrees in Eau Claire, 40 in Madison and 41 in Green Bay within the week that offered farmers 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork statewide.
The cold front brought rain at last. It was widespread, with much of the state getting a decent dose, including some much-needed precipitation for the dry western portions of the state.
Precipitation totals ranged from 0.01 inches in Milwaukee to 1.39 inches in Green Bay. Burnett County got one inch of rain, while St. Croix County got 0.6 inches in its first rain since July 9.
Unfortunately, it was another week without rain for La Crosse County, where the ground is hard and pastures are getting very dry and brown.
"Walking in the pasture, you hear a cracking sound underfoot. This is definitely a time to be careful with fire or sparks," the reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.
Tractors on the sides of hills also have to be careful because they can slide easily when pulling a load, he added. "It's a dangerous time. I hope everyone slows down and stays safe."
In Juneau County, rain gauges tallied around an inch. "It was a perfect rain, except it was about four-six weeks too late," that reporter said. "Corn silage is being taken, and everyone is hoping that we get a late frost so the soybeans can fill out."
Two inches of rain fell in Door County, the first in three weeks. "It doesn't do any good - like a heavy dew," the reporter observed.
While the rain was too late to help drought-damaged crops, the report said, it should bolster fall seedings, pastures and hay stands as they prepare to overwinter.
Fond du Lac County was blessed with two inches of rain that revived beans, alfalfa and pastures. Early planted winter wheat has emerged with good germination, the reporter added.
Vernon County finally got wet, with amounts ranging from 0.05 to 1.5 inches, while Grant County got about an inch of rain. "It's probably no help for crops, but it might perk up the pastures", that reporter said.
The 1.5 inches of rain that fell on Waukesha County did help. "Pasture land that was brown last week is now green this week," the reporter observed.
Waushara County received a half inch of rain on Sept. 14 and another half inch the next day. "It will help pastures and hay crops start to recover, but it's too late for corn and soybeans", the reporter said.
There are many blanks stalks in unirrigated field corn, he added, predicting many fields in central Wisconsin will have significantly lower yields and lower test weight due to the summer's drought.
By week's end, 86 percent of the state's corn crop was in the dough stage, 58 percent was denting and 14 percent was mature, compared to the five-year average of 92 percent in dough, 69 percent in dent and 21 percent mature.
There were scattered reports of frost damage to corn.
The silage harvest continued with producers chopping corn that will not mature. Some reporters noted that feed shortages were forcing early silage chopping, especially in areas where pastures were dried up.
Corn silage was coming off fast in Dane County, as farmers continued taking fourth crop hay.
In Walworth County, reports from appraisals done were between 110-185 bushels per acre on corn that was taken for silage. "Not as good as it looked earlier this year," the reporter said.
Crops are noticeably better in Dane County than in his area, the Green County reporter said, noting many local farmers were commenting it is drier than last year.
"However, corn did pollinate this year due to earlier moisture. I have not heard a corn yield report of less than 100 bushels from insurance reports," he added.
Beans are a different story. "Soybeans are going to yield lower than last year because we have not had any late-season rains at all," he reported. "It was too late for this weekend's rain to help."
Across the state, 98 percent of soybeans were setting pods, 48 percent had leaves turning color and 11 percent were dropping leaves, compared to the five-year averages of 100 percent setting pods, 67 percent turning color and 28 percent dropping leaves.
In some areas, the dry conditions have caused poor pod fill.
Fond du Lac County reported some weeds have gotten above the soybean canopy during the dry spell, although overall weed pressure is low.
Lots of Asian beetles were observed in bean fields in La Crosse County. "I hope they stay there and don't come into the house," the reporter said.
Statewide, 98 percent of oats had been harvested for grain, as well as 93 percent of third cutting alfalfa and 35 percent of fourth cutting. Third crop yields were reported low in many areas due to dry conditions.
Marathon County reported short hay, frost and 0.5 inches of rain on Sunday morning, while hay yields in La Crosse County were described as potent, but short on quantity.
"I harvested two short chopper boxes of hay off 12 acres," the reporter shared. "Looking at others making hay, where I usually see 12-15 hay rows for baling, farmers have raked together the rows on the field and get maybe two or three where you can actually see something in the row."
Rumors of silos being nearly empty are going around, he said. "Feed is short. Some farmers are chopping corn because they need the feed."
Looking ahead, apples look promising. In Chippewa County, the crop was rated "very good quality".
Sweet corn was still being sold in Dane County, while Portage County was wrapping up its harvest of sweet corn and snap beans.
The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress 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.
It is compiled at the Wisconsin field office in Madison by state statistician Greg Bussler.