April ends on soggy note

Carole Curtis
Manure hauling and planting equipment was idled last week by another spat of cold weather and rain that left water standing in most Wisconsin fields.

MADISON - The last week of April opened on a promising note, but cold and rain closed in again, limiting fieldwork to 2.6 days, keeping most fields too muddy to work and frustrating farmers.

"Growers are getting anxious to begin planting, but the weather remains against them. I saw the first corn being planted, and the field got snowed on by the end of the week," the Barron County reporter shared in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending April 30.

On the up side, alfalfa in his area doubled in size over the week. "The stands look good with very little winter damage, and small grain cover crops are getting thick stands," he said.

The report marked April 30 moisture supplies at 52 percent adequate and 48 percent surplus, up from the previous week's 36 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 59 percent adequate and 41 percent surplus, up from the previous week's 32 percent surplus.

In the east central district and central districts, topsoil moisture supplies hit 84 percent surplus and 71 percent surplus, respectively, after the week that drenched Madison with 1.8 inches, Milwaukee with 1.26 and Green Bay with over an inch.

Tractors throughout Bayfield and Douglas counties remained  quiet, idled by 2-3 inches of snowfall on Wednesday night into Thursday. in Columbia County, most fields featured standing water.

Pastures and alfalfa loved the weather, and winter wheat held at 64 percent in good to excellent condition, but tillage and planting continued to drop further behind normal.

As of April 30th, spring tillage was 21 percent complete statewide, 11 days behind last year and eight days behind the  five-year average, while pastures rose from 55 percent in good to excellent condition to 68 percent.

Statewide, there was some planting of oats, corn, and potatoes on well-drained areas early in the week, but incoming inclement weather applied the brakes.

"Farmers just get going and then comes the rain and snow," the Clark County reporter said, noting soil temperatures are hovering around 42 degrees.

By week's end, five percent of the state's corn crop was seeded down, 10 days behind last year and six days behind the five-year average.

In Green County, the majority of oats and new seeding was in the ground and much of it had already emerged.

Statewide, 33 percent of oats had been planted by April 30, seven days behind last year and five days behind the five-year average. Oats emerged was pegged at 17 percent, one day ahead of both last year and the five-year average.

In Green Lake and Marquette counties, farmers worked around very wet soil conditions. "We are making steady progress planting, but passing over many wet spots," the reporter said.

May rolled in with 27 percent of this year's potatoes planted, which trails last year by eight days.

While it may feel far behind, a look back at April 30 over the past 10 years shows 2017 ahead of 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014's planting levels, and ahead of 2013 and 2014 in the number of April days suitable for fieldwork.

Manure hauling continued when and where field conditions allowed. "Manure storages are full and this wet spring is keeping everyone from hauling manure," the Door County reporter said.

In La Crosse County, the off-and-on rain kept most folks from accomplishing much in the fields. "I did see some manure being hauled up and down the highway, but having only two days when it was possible to get into the fields makes getting anything done almost impossible," the reporter said. "Snow this week didn't help either."

Alfalfa in St. Croix County was looking good and growing fast, but in Polk County, where most small grains were planted and some spring tillage was completed, there appeared to be a decent amount of winterkill on alfalfa crops and instances of colony collapse on bees.

Florence, Forest and Langlade counties also suspected winterkill. "But it's hard to estimate the true impact with the excess water laying in the fields," that reporter noted.

In Waupaca County, some winter wheat was showing stress from the ceaselessly wet weather. "The alfalfa is taking off, but we need more sunny dry days to get things really growing and the farmers in the fields," the reporter said.

"Everyone is looking forward to dryer and warmer weather," the Sheboygan County reporter concurred.

The "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition 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.