Wisconsin farmers need dry weather

Carole Curtis, Correspondent


It feels like monsoon season across much of Wisconsin.

Heavy rains interrupted fieldwork across the state last week, dumping from one to eight inches and sparking reports of muddy conditions, standing water in low spots in fields and flooding, particularly in the central and southwestern portions of the state.

According to the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending Sept. 11, flooding in Richland County has caused a harvesting delay.  "There are fields that will be a while before producers can get into them," the local reporter said.

Area farmers are also concerned about debris in low lying fields and how the mud-covered grass in pastures will fare when the water recedes. Some soybeans in low fields have been covered with mud and may have a hard time standing back up, he added.

The wet week trimmed the days suitable for fieldwork back to 3.6. Dry weather is needed, the report underlined.

In Portage County, the snap bean and sweet corn harvest pushed forward with interruptions from monsoonal rains.  "All other crop harvest was stopped by heavy rainfall or fields too wet for machinery to travel," the reporter shared.

Statewide, topsoil moisture levels surged from 8 percent surplus on Sept. 4 to 21 percent surplus on Sept. 11, while average subsoil moistures rose from 8 percent surplus to 16 percent surplus.

In the central district, topsoil moisture rose from 8 percent surplus to 20 percent surplus over the week, while levels jumped from 2 percent surplus to 27 percent surplus in the east central district, and from 4 percent surplus to 19 percent surplus in the southwestern district. 

Columbia County got inundated with five inches of rain. "Rivers, creeks, and drainage ditches are full," the reporter observed.

Between  3-5 inches of rain halted field work and made harvesting dry hay "more than challenging" for Price and Taylor County farmers. "Soybeans seem to turn overnight with all colored and many dropping leaves," the reporter added. "It is very wet to even harvest any corn at this point."

As of September 11, 95 percent of the state’s corn acreage was in or beyond the dough stage, four days ahead of last year, and seven days ahead of the five-year average.  Eighty-one percent of corn was dented, 10 days ahead of the average, and 29 percent of corn was reported mature, 10 days ahead of last year and 9 days ahead of the average. 

Corn silage was being harvested as plant moistures and field conditions permitted. In Fond du Lac County, farmers had two days to harvest before heavy rains to 3.50 inches put the brakes on field work for the rest of the week.

In Chippewa County, fields feature lots of standing water and some erosion in soybean fields that have lost their leaves.  "This is too much rain this late in the season. It could become a fall of mudding out corn and soybeans," that reporter said. "We are in need of two dry weeks with sun and wind to dry fields out."

In Eau Claire County, corn was passing optimal maturity for silage, but the continued rain and wet conditions kept farmers from working the harvest.

By week's end, 23 percent of Wisconsin's corn for silage was off the field, five days ahead of last year and two days ahead of the average. 

The corn crop was rated 87 percent in good to excellent condition.

Soybean fields took on a golden hue, with leaves turning color on 67 percent of this year’s acreage, four days ahead of last year and six days ahead of the average.  Twenty-five percent of soybeans were dropping leaves, six days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average. 

"Good thing this season's heavy and tall soybean canopies are yellowing down, at least in the immediate neighborhood," the Fond du Lac reporter said. "White mold issues have likely been averted what with all the rain the past thirty days (8.20 inches)."

Pastures have actually improved some, which is unusual for this time of year, he added, and alfalfa is on track to enter dormancy in very good condition.

The condition of the state's pastures was a respectable 78 percent good to excellent, while soybeans were marked 84 percent good to excellent.

It was slow-going for spuds, however. By Sept. 11, 26 percent of Wisconsin's potato crop had been harvested, compared to 50 percent last year.  Potato condition was rated 88 percent good to excellent.  

Eleven percent of winter wheat was planted, five days ahead of last year, with one percent emerged by Sunday. 

A good year continued in Chippewa County. "Hay yields must be a record this year, with four great cuttings on most fields," the reporter commented. "Soybeans are chest high and filled with pods, and corn ears have tipped and are large in size."  

Shawano County was also enjoying a fine forage year. "The alfalfa is still growing like crazy and so are the lawns," the reporter commented.

Statewide, farmers had taken 67 percent of fourth cut alfalfa by Sept. 11, putting this year five days ahead of 2015 and 10 days ahead of the average. 

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.

Wisconsin farmers work fast to make hay during a season marked by multiple interruptions from rain.