Heavy rains hamper fall harvest, planting across Wisconsin

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Machinery battles its way through a soggy field in a quest to harvest sweet corn in Fond du Lac County on Sept. 22.

While temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s and plenty of moisture last week helped corn and soybeans develop, farmers are still worried that late planted crops won't mature before the first frost. Along with those concerns, a swath of heavy rains that hit the southwestern to northeastern part of the state hampered haying and the end of small grains harvest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report. 

In Kewaunee County the rain fell on already saturated ground causing standing water in fields and reducing the chances of producers getting winter wheat in before the end of September. 

"It is possible that there will be fewer acres of winter wheat planted this year simply because the ground will be too wet," the Kewaunee crop reporter said. "Hopefully the weather will turn around so that this crop can be put in."

Drier weather will be needed before corn can be chopped, but it will be toward the end of October until that happens since fields were planted late.

Corn in Burnett and Washburn counties is starting to dent but ears look small the farm reporter noted. The first corn silage was harvested in the area but most of it is still a week or two away as the fields are too green and wet. 

Corn for silage harvest was 15% complete across the state, 13 days behind last year. 

In Clark County where farmers have chopped a few loads of corn silage, moisture was over 70%, according to the farm reporter.

"Some early planted corn fields are dented and some late planted are just beginning to tassel," the Clark County reporter said. "Many are concerned we may get high moisture at best."

As Marinette and Oconto counties experienced "another week of inundating rain, minimal field work was completed," the farm reporter said. "Crops seem to be maturing as expected, however, serious concerns are starting to settle in about ability to get in fields to harvest. Silage harvest is on the near horizon, but field conditions will not allow that without some dry days."

Soil in Crawford and Grant counties is very saturated and some roads are closed due to rain, according to the USDA report. 

"More rain most of this past week has led to very wet conditions," the farm reporter said. "Ground has been wet since September began. Corn silage ready to be harvested, but can't get at it."

Only the Bayfield and Douglas counties area have fewer concerns about moisture as hay harvest wraps up and corn harvest is at about 50% but in full swing. Even with fields that are not overly wet, farmers are concerned about a wet fall during harvesting, the farm reporter said. 

Soybean blooming was at 96% and 92% were setting pods. Leaves were coloring on 59% of the state's soybeans, 12 days behind last year. Plants were dropping leaves on 24% of soybeans, 10 days behind last year. 

"Soybeans are mostly dropping leaves and look short but with good pod numbers," the Burnett and Washburn counties farm reporter said. "Won't really know yields until harvest though."

Third cutting of alfalfa was 94% complete and fourth cutting 48% complete, about two weeks behind the average. 

In Clark County, the farm reporter said, "Late cuttings of hay are all over the board; some are still wrapping up second cutting on new seeding, others third and some fourth. Others are waiting for a freeze before the last cut."

In Portage and Wood counties potato and sweet corn harvest continued. Cranberry harvest started with lower yields and color.

Potato harvest across the state was reported 45 percent complete, only a few days behind last year. 

With fall officially arriving on Monday, fall color was at nearly 50% in low lying areas of Portage and Wood counties and leaf drop had begun.

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at