Wet weather pattern threatens harvest quality

Carole Curtis


Farmers work to bring the harvest in.

Rain gauges overflowed last week, along with creeks and streams, as a slow-moving storm system dumped heavy rain and saturated Wisconsin fields and crops.

The heaviest rain fell on Tuesday and Wednesday with additional scattered showers in some parts of the state every day, said the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending Sept. 25.

Summer ended with a serious dousing that left fields far too wet to support machinery. In some places, total rainfall exceeded 10 inches, sparking reports of flash flooding and erosion damage, as well as large hail.

In Waushara County, 2.9 inches fell on Sept. 21, topped by 3 inches the next day.

The heavy rains caused significant problems for everyone, the Juneau County reporter said. "The ground is completely saturated and it is difficult to impossible to harvest silage. The corn is either still too wet or the fields are too soft."

Some ears of corn have started to sprout, he added, some mold is forming on the ears and some soybeans were knocked down, which could make harvest difficult.

Frequent and heavy rains also hit Green County, where mold was also reportedly developing on the ears in some corn fields. "We have potential for good crops, but quality and stand-ability could be a challenge if we don't get dry weather for harvest," that reporter noted.

Flooding did a lot of damage in Crawford County, while flooding rain in Richland County brought fieldwork to a screeching halt and hail damaged soybeans and corn.

The storms slashed the days suitable for fieldwork down to 2.7, the report said. Many areas will need several days of dry weather before fieldwork can resume.

The heavy rains threatened what has been an outstanding growing year for many. "The remarkable rainfall has all but halted harvest progress and has caused the significant loss in quality of a really good crop," the Trempealeau County reporter said.

It was the same story in Wood County. "It is so wet that there will be very little progress for the next week, even without any additional rain," that reporter commented. "Much corn silage will be harvested after its most desirable maturity."

In Clark County, fieldwork stopped and flooding started when the storms dumped 6.3 inches of rain.

The week ended with the state's topsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent short, 59 percent adequate and 40 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 1 percent short, 64 percent adequate and 35 percent surplus.

The corn was maturing fast in Burnett and Washburn counties. "It's too dry to chop now," the reporter said. "We need a few dry days to be able to combine both for soybean moisture and soil moisture. Fields are very wet."

In Barron County, farmers said quality corn silage harvesting was threatened by the weather delays.

Farmers in Shawano County continued the silage harvest, but the rainy weather was causing some issues in the field. "There are some ruts left after the equipment gets through," the reporter shared. ,

As of September 25, 95 percent of the state’s corn acreage was dented and 66 percent was mature, 11 days ahead of the five-year average.

Some high moisture corn was harvested early in the week. As of Sept 25, farmers had taken 2 percent of the grain corn and 64 percent of the silage corn, putting this year's silage harvest three days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average.  .

The report rated the corn condition at 87 percent good to excellent.

Soybeans were turning color on 96 percent of the state’s acreage.  Seventy-three percent of soybeans were dropping leaves, four days ahead of last year and six days ahead of the average, as the bean harvest kicked off with a crop condition rating of 84 percent good to excellent.

In Barron County, the soybean harvest was off to a sluggish start. "Soybean grain moisture has been slow to drop to optimum levels," the reporter explained.

The state's potato harvest hit 58 percent complete by Sunday, putting this year six days behind last year.

As of Sept. 25, 22 percent of the state's winter wheat was planted by Sept. 25, just three days behind last year, with 9 percent of the crop emerged. Farmers in Barron County were among those who began their winter small grain seeding but were blowing most cover crops back onto the fields.

Alfalfa was a bright spot, with 85 percent of fourth cutting complete, four days ahead of last year and 11 days ahead of the average.

The soggy week ended with pasture condition at 79 percent good to excellent and 7 percent of fall tillage completed.

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.