A tale of missed showers for northern Wisconsin

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
A Washington County alfalfa field is cleared as hay is chopped into a truck. Fourth crop alfalfa in northern Wisconsin is short due to a lack of rain.

Parched crops in northern Wisconsin waited for precipitation last week, as clear, hot and humid weather gave way to storms at the end of the week. But rains missed the driest parts of the state, hitting heaviest in the south-central portions of the state and leaving the northern part of the state with little to no rain and non-irrigated crops showing significant stress. 

Dry conditions had crops maturing rapidly, and some fields were injured enough that they may not fully mature, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending Aug. 19. 

Some areas of Chippewa County received over an inch of rain, while other areas of the county only a trace. The lack of moisture has caused short alfalfa growth for fourth crop in the county.

"Most crops on sandy soils and hilltops are severely stressed or dead," the Chippewa County reporter said. "Corn is starting to dent with some farmers looking to start chopping corn silage due to dry conditions."

Farmers in many areas were planning to begin chopping corn silage soon. Sixty-two percent of the state's corn acreage has reached the dough stage, five days ahead of last year and 18 percent of corn acreage was dented, eight days ahead of last year. 

High humidity and heavy morning dew made baling difficult, even in areas where precipitation was minimal. 

"Spotty rain is good for corn but makes it difficult to make hay," the La Crosse County reporter said. "Humid days also have an effect on the hay. Where the hay was cut and looks green on a good day, may be baled brown by the time a person can get to harvesting." 

Grass hay is looking poorer every week in Ashland and Iron counties due to the lack of rain, according to the report.

Third cutting alfalfa was 79 percent complete across the state, one day behind last year and fourth cutting was 13 percent complete, two days behind last year. 

Soybeans in Marquette and Waushara counties are starting to turn color in places due to being stressed during dry weather, the reporter noted. "Got some rain last week, but more still needed."

Soybean acreage across the state is 96 percent bloomed, one day ahead of last year, 89 percent setting pods, four days ahead of last year, and 4 percent had leaves coloring. 

While Washington County got missed by rain, Rock County had several days of heavy rain last week and Dane County received 1.5 - 6 inches of rain. Vernon County welcomed 1 - 3 inches of much needed rain as well. 

A storm went through Calumet County late last week, but the southern part of the county is still dry.

"If this dry weather we've had during August continues through the rest of the month, corn chopping season is not far away," said the Calumet reporter. "Winter wheat fields are combined with just a few more straw bales to be taken off of the fields."

The state's winter wheat harvest was reported at 96 percent complete, even with last year. Oats harvested for grain were three days ahead of last year at 65 percent complete. 

If grain harvesting doesn't point to the end of summer, several trees showing color in Dane County certainly does.