Central Wisconsin crops need rain

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Conditions were excellent for harvesting hay last week, but dry conditions in parts of Wisconsin are starting to stress crops in some areas.

Irrigation systems spraying across fields and dust coating everything in sight at Farm Technology Days in Marshfield is a clear indication of the dry conditions across central Wisconsin. While conditions were excellent for baling dry hay during the first week of  July, with clear, sunny skies, above normal temperatures and minimal rain, hay quality is declining in some areas due to the lack of moisture. 

Farmers had nearly six days suitable for fieldwork last week, according to the July 9 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report. 

Scattered thunderstorms on July 4 brought precipitation to the western portions of the state and the Lake Michigan shoreline, but missed central Wisconsin entirely.  Reporters in some areas noted that it has been over two weeks since there was a measurable rainfall and crops were showing stress on light soils.

"Scattered rain across the county on the  evening of July 4th helped," the reporter from Manitowoc County said. "We could use a nice all-day soaker rain  to help regrowth of alfalfa after second crop harvest, finish the winter  wheat off, and just keep the corn and soybeans looking good."  

Topsoil moisture supplies were rated 2 percent very short, 21 percent short, 71 percent adequate and 6 percent surplus, according to the report. 

The last rain days in Marquette and Waushara counties have been spotty, some areas not seeing any measurable rain for two weeks and crops are stressed, the reported noted. 

Many fields in Clark County are showing drought stress with the high temperatures, but overall crops still look good. 

In Columbia County, corn is curling on sandy fields, but heavier soils are still doing fine, the reporter said, with low-lying areas still with plenty of moisture. 

Yet, in Rock County, field conditions are still wet to very wet. 

Crops are developing quickly in the summer heat and overall, crop progress has caught up to average, despite late plantings. Early planted corn has started to tassel and small grains are ripening for harvest. 

Corn is more than knee-high and about to tassel in most Forest and Langlade County fields. In Vernon County, some corn is shoulder high. 

Six percent of the state's corn acreage has reached the silking stage, eight days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the five-year average. Corn condition was 83 percent good to excellent, according to the NASS report. 

The first cutting of alfalfa was reported at 98 percent complete and second cutting was 56 percent complete, two days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average. All hay condition was reported 85 percent in good to excellent. 

Soybeans are at 29 percent bloomed, four days ahead of last year and the average with condition at 81 percent good to excellent. 

Eighty-one percent of oats are reported headed, one day behind last year and the average. Oats condition was 88 percent good to excellent. 

Winter wheat is a little behind at 96 percent headed, seven days behind last year and coloring at 75 percent, one day behind last year. Winter wheat condition was 84 percent good to excellent.