Dry conditions continue across southern Wisconsin

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Dry conditions in southern and southeastern Wisconsin continued to worsen, with most parts of the state receiving little to no precipitation last week.

Following Wisconsin's wettest decade on record, lower-than-normal precipitation in the spring of 2021 is raising alarms among producers as they watch drought conditions creeping into Wisconsin.

Compared to 2019, farmers were able to get crops planted this spring earlier than normal thanks to a spate of dry weather. Many wonder if this year's dry spring is a harbinger of a dry summer.

Dry conditions worsened in southern and southeastern Wisconsin.

A dry spring is steadily giving way to an arid summer as months of below normal precipitation so far in 2021 cause drought conditions across broad swaths of southern and western Wisconsin.

In a June 3 update for Wisconsin, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates severe drought conditions in the state’s southeastern corner, with moderate drought across its southwestern and east-central stretches and abnormally dry conditions present in adjacent areas and reaching into west-central and north-central portions of the state.

According to Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending June 6, topsoil condition rated 9% very short, 24% short, 64% adequate and just 3% surplus. Subsoil conditions were similar, rating 8% very short, 23% short, 65% adequate and 4% surplus.

With extended dry conditions, farmers took advantage of the weather conditions and cut hay. The first cutting of alfalfa was reported as 67% complete, nearly a week ahead of last year. The condition is rated 70% good to excellent.

While moderate drought conditions may cause some damage to crops or pastures, severe conditions could lead to losses, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In Wisconsin, pasture conditions were rated at 68% good to excellent, a drop of 5% from the previous week.

Dry conditions have been holding pretty steady for the past month or so, said Christopher Kucharik, a climate researcher and professor of agronomy and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told PBS that Wisconsin has been enduring dry conditions for at least a month now. Hot humid temperatures of the past week haven't helped matters.

"We're running a three to seven-inch deficit of precipitation going back to springtime, and that's equivalent to an entire month to month-and-a-half of rainfall. It's difficult to make up that type of deficit," Kucharik told PBS.

According to weather.com, above-average temperatures are expected to hang around the Midwest throughout June, with below normal precipitation.

More than 98% of the corn crop was reported to be in the ground, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report. This is 11 days ahead of the average. Ninety-eight percent of the soybean crop was planted with 83% of the plants emerged.

Well over half of the winter wheat fields have already headed with the crop condition rated at 87% good to excellent.