for home delivery

Planting Off To A Scattered Start

Carole Curtis
Freshly worked up fields and a herd of Holsteins make for a bucolic farm scene in southern Eau Claire County.

MADISON - Spuds were going in, maple trees were tapped out, and farmers began seeding small grains on light soils last week but the fields were few and the soils were light.

The "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the first full week of April held scattered reports of oats, alfalfa and spring wheat being planted during the 2.5 days suitable for fieldwork, but much of the state remained on hold as farmers waited for muddy grounds to firm.

As of April 9, oats planting was 4 percent complete, slightly ahead of last year, but 3 percent points behind the five-year average.

The maple syrup season wound down as warm overnights and budding trees halted the sap run.  Reports on the quality and quantity of syrup were mixed. Florence, Forest and Langlade figured the run was below average to average.

Across Portage and Wood counties, the race was on, then off, to plant potatoes. "It started in full swing with the reds early last week, but now the rains have shut that down for early this week," the local reporter said.

Heavy rain fell during the week across southern Wisconsin, pushing the state's April 9 topsoil moisture levels to 0 percent very short, 1 percent short, 69 percent adequate and 30 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 0  percent very short, 1 percent short, 72 percent adequate and 27 percent surplus.

Milwaukee and La Crosse reported over 1.4 inches of rain for the week and Madison measured almost an inch. "It was a very wet week," the Columbia County reporter observed.

In Waushara County, where a few fields were dry enough to seed down, some early plowing was underway, but spring tillage had yet to begin in earnest. By week's end, the work was 2 percent complete statewide, equal to last year, but 3 percentage points below the five-year average

Manure and fertilizer applications were going strong, but only where field conditions allowed. The work was scattered about in Chippewa County, where some fertilizer was applied in areas where road bans were removed.

In La Crosse County, the majority of the work being done was getting machinery ready for spring work and repairing fences in anticipation of pasturing animals.

That reporter relayed concerns for the dairy operations who were sent a letter saying the plants they had been selling to are no longer going to take their milk. "These people are looking for plants to sell their milk to.  Apparently they are hard to find, leaving farmers with the idea of going out of business," he said. "While this seems to not have an impact on crop production, it may cause these operators to change their minds about what to plant this year."

Winter wheat was greening up in some areas with overall condition pegged at 59 percent good to excellent statewide, up 5 percentage points from the previous week.

In Ozaukee and Washington counties, the late planted wheat was struggling to get a good start. In Columbia County,  winter wheat was looking good, except for near hilltops and knolls, and alfalfa was greening up.

Statewide, pasture condition was rated 45 percent in good to excellent condition, compared to 48 percent in good to excellent condition last year.  In Vernon County, beef producers were starting to get calves.

In Calumet County and elsewhere, farmers remained concerned about overwintered crops, but it was still too early for a full assessment of winterkill. In northeaster Wisconsin, many beekeepers reported severe losses to hives.