May opens with dry window

Carole Curtis

MADISON - May rolled in with drier weather, allowing a surge of fieldwork last week and almost four days to do it in.

The weather turned a corner last week, giving farmers a decent rain-free stretch that allowed them to get into some fields in earnest.

According to the "Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition Report", there were 3.6 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending May 7.

Farmers, particularly on well-drained areas, hit the ground running.

"The fields are drying out and a lot of seed is going in the ground," the Barron County reporter said in the document created with input from farmer reporters and ag agents across the state.

By week's end, spring tillage was 37 percent complete statewide, up from the previous week's 21 percent and now six days behind the five-year average.

"No or very little rain since Wednesday made a lot of field work possible," the Trempealeau County reporter commented.

The weather, while drier, was not warmer than it has been. Average temperatures for the week rode between three and five degrees below normal, as Eau Claire dropped to a low of 30 degrees, Madison to 32, Milwaukee and Green Bay to 33.

Fruit trees were starting to bloom, making the cold weather a concern, and corn growers would like warmer soil temperatures for planting.

"Most everybody wants to start corn, but the Sunday ground temp at 8:00 was 42 degrees," the Clark County reporter said. "We need some warm temps."

Corn planters started running Wednesday in Marquette and Waushara counties, and making very fast progress with long days in Dane County.

Washington and Fond du Lac counties started the week with 1.20 inches rain followed by very heavy frost.

"That made for a slow dry out, leaving lighter and higher soils only this past weekend suitable for fieldwork," the reporter said. "Alfalfa is poised to rocket if we could catch a little warmth."

Vernon County got light patchy frost on Tuesday, but no crop damage was reported. By the weekend farmers were finally able to hit the fields and start planting corn, haul lots of manure and spread fertilizer.

"It's still cool, but the sunshine is nice," that reporter said.

In Florence and Forest counties, dry and windy days with below normal temperatures followed freezing temperatures in the morning.

"Trees are just starting to bud and hay is starting to show some green," the reporter observed.

Portage and Door counties were among those still stalled by the wet and cold spring, while the soggy state of affairs keep fieldwork on hold and continued to hamper nutrient hauling in Bayfield, Douglas, Ashland and Iron counties.

By the end of the week, fields in Burnett and Washburn counties had dried out enough for farmers to go in the field full speed and start seeding corn.

By week's end, 15 percent of the state's corn planting was done, trailing the five-year average by six days, and two percent of the state’s expected soybean acres were planted.

Oats planting was marked at 52 percent complete, four days behind the five-year average, while oats emerged was at 25 percent, two days behind average. In the potato fields, 49 percent of this year's tubers has been planted, nine days behind last year.

Pastures and wheat continued to prosper. Statewide, pasture condition was rated 72 percent good to excellent, compared to the previous week's 68 percent.  Winter wheat was 70 percent in good to excellent condition statewide, up from the previous week's 64 percent.

In Kewaunee County, where the first corn of 2017 finally got planted and winter-killed alfalfa was starting to show, farmers were noticing problems with the winter wheat.

"The one issue with the wheat at the present time is the light green color.  In some cases, the fields have been too wet to have any fertilizer applied, which the plants need," that reporter explained.

Iowa County reported some winter kill of hay and, in Dodge County, where farmers were hauling manure on Friday and testing the fields to see if it's go-time for tillage and planting, most of the damage to the wheat and alfalfa was from drowning out.

As of May 7, the state's topsoil moisture supplies were rated 72 percent adequate and 28 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 1 percent short, 74 percent adequate and 25 percent surplus.

The "Wisconsin Crop Progress and 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.