April showers dampen fieldwork progress

Carole Curtis
Stormy weather trumped warmer temperatures last week, leaving mud and standing water in fields across most of Wisconsin.

MADISON - Another week brimming with frequent rains and thunderstorms kept the damper on fieldwork across Wisconsin.

There were 2.4 days suitable for fieldwork during Easter week, the April 17 "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" said. Temperatures rode well above normal, helping warm soils, but the stormy weather left mud and standing water and crimped fieldwork.

"The ground was just getting dry to the point where it could have been tilled, but then more rain came, making everything quite wet again," the Kewaunee County reporter said in the document created with input from farmer reporters and county ag agents across the state.

For the week ending April 16, temperatures averaged 7-10 degrees above normal, maxing out at 82 degrees in Milwaukee, 76 in La Crosse and Madison, 74 in Green Bay and 71 degrees in Eau Claire.

Precipitation totals topped 1.8 inches in Eau Claire, 1.6 inches in Madison and around 1.4 inches in Green Bay, La Crosse and Milwaukee.

Rock County reported over three inches of rain, standing water in many fields and no field work. Adams and Juneau counties also got at least three inches of rain, with some areas receiving substantially more. "There is a lot of water standing in fields," the reporter observed.

In Marquette and Waushara counties, 1.5 inches of rain parked the potato planters for a few days. Rusk County was drenched with over 1.25 inches of rain. "With the heavy soils in some parts of the county, it will be a while before producers are able to get back in the fields," that reporter noted.

Rain on top of rain stopped any manure hauling or any type of field activity in Lincoln and Marathon counties. "Water is ponding everywhere. We need sunshine and wind," the reporter said.

As of Sunday, the state's topsoil moisture supplies were 0 percent very short, 1 percent short, 60 percent adequate and 39 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 0 percent very short, 1 percent short, 66 percent adequate and 33 percent surplus.

Despite the widespread soggy conditions, some spring tillage, manure spreading, potato planting and small grains seeding was reported, mostly on light soils.

The week ended with six percent of the state's spring tillage finished, six percentage points below both last year and the five-year average.

Oats planting was 12 percent complete, two percentage points behind last year and four percentage points behind the five-year average. Two percent of the crop had emerged.

Six percent of the state's potatoes were tucked in, two percentage points behind last year.

Farmers were still in the process of assessing freeze damage to alfalfa and winter wheat fields. In Shawano County, the winter wheat looks pretty good, but alfalfa shows some heaving. "We will have to wait for nicer weather to see what effect it actually has on plant stand," the reporter noted.

In Eau Claire County, most fields of alfalfa look good. There is some winterkill and injury in low areas of the field, but it's a small percentage. In Iowa County, by contrast, there appears to be considerable alfalfa winterkill.

Statewide, pasture condition was rated 48 percent in good to excellent condition, while winter wheat came in at 60 percent, slightly up from the previous week.

In Crawford County, winter wheat fields and pastures are greening up and farmers were applying anhydrous, seeding oats, and spreading manure on the ridge tops. "Apple growers were spraying trees over the weekend, and trees should start to bloom in the next couple weeks," the reporter commented.

The  "Wisconsin Crop Progress Report" is a cooperative efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the National Weather Service.