Spring fieldwork on idle

Carole Curtis
Now Media Group


Maple sap collection bustled along last week, but field machinery remained idle as rain, snow and overcast skies gave Wisconsin fields very little opportunity to dry out.

"It was cold, rainy, sleety, snowy and muddy this past week," the Columbia County reporter observed in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending April 10.

The report ranked a single day, at best, suitable for fieldwork during the first full week of April. The unseasonably cold trend continued, with temperatures running below normal and overnight lows falling into the teens and low 20s across the state.

"Things remain cold and wet. We received more snow and rain and temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal," the Juneau County reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

Eau Claire and Green Bay marked lows of 13 degrees, while Madison sank to 16 degrees, La Crosse to 20 degrees and Milwaukee to 21 degrees.

In northern Wisconsin, potential freeze damage to winter crops was reported, although snowfall in other areas protected the ground from frost.

Langlade County remained covered with six inches of snow, while sections of eastern Bayfield County remain snow-covered.

Topsoil moisture levels rose across the state, ending the week with 45 percent surplus, 54 percent adequate, 1 percent short and zero percent very short. Of the state's nine districts, the east central and southeast had the dubious distinction of being the wettest, with surpluses of 74 and 73 percent, respectively.

Statewide, subsoil moisture swelled to 37 percent surplus, 62 percent adequate, 1 percent short and 0 percent very short.

Fieldwork was stalled by the wet conditions, although some manure was spread where temperatures were low enough to firm the ground sufficiently.

"With the more than adequate amounts of rain and snow in the past few months, manure pits are getting full and need to be emptied, if only partially," the Kewaunee County reporter noted.

As of April 10, spring tillage was 2 percent complete, 1 percent below last year and 3 percent below the five-year average.

"Nothing is happening here. The fields are too wet for any activity," the Door County reporter said

In Monroe County, there was a little activity on the sandier soils, the reporter shared, and some Amish farmers were doing some tillage in the medium textured soils.

There were no reports of potato acres being planted, although 3 percent of the state's oat crop was in, putting this year 1 percent behind last year and 5 percent behind the five-year average.

This year is a far cry from 2010, when 34 percent of oats were in, and 2012's 32 percent. On other hand, there were no oats in the ground on April 10 in 2008, 2013 or 2014.

Hay stands, pastures and winter wheat were slowly waking up and turning green. The week ended with a pasture condition rating of 77 percent fair to good, up from the previous week's 73 percent.

The winter wheat crop was holding its own, with 79 percent rated in good to excellent condition.

Alfalfa in Columbia County was off to good start. "It came through the winter very well and is looking good so far," the reporter said.

Winter wheat and rye fields were greening up nicely in Barron County, and alfalfa look pretty good, at least early in the week, before the snow, sleet and very cold temperatures slowed growth.

In Kewaunee County, the winter wheat was the only crop to show any signs of getting green and not all fields are even showing that, the reporter said. "Some fields are not looking good but, with the cold, the plants are only slowly coming out of dormancy," he noted. "The alfalfa is not greening at all."

In Pepin County, the maple syrup season was winding up with above average production.

The weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the National Weather Service.