Rain puts fieldwork in a rut

Carole Curtis
A farmer powers through final harvest runs across a soybean field, finishing the work before heavy rain moved in last week.

Madison — Machinery was cranking last week as farmers harvested as much acreage as possible before it began raining.

Midweek, the window slammed shut with widespread heavy rain and an encore of intermittent showers.

Monday and Tuesday were excellent days, the Dodge County reporter said in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending Oct. 30.

Lots of hay was harvested, corn stalks and soybean stubble were made for bedding and soybeans were coming off with yields averaging around 65 bushel per acre with 13 percent moisture. "Then 3 inches of rain came on Wednesday. Nothing has been done in the fields since then," he said.

All told, just over four days of the week ending Oct. 30 were suitable for fieldwork. Temperatures were above normal, but overcast conditions and reduced daylight kept fields from drying out.

"More wet weather is causing major concerns with the soybeans that are still in the field," the Shawano County reporter said. "Field conditions deteriorated considerably with many areas of excess moisture causing a lot of ruts and delays in harvesting corn and hauling manure."

The long hours farmers put in did push the soybean harvest near completion, but producers were battling mud to combine corn wherever possible, a situation that raised concerns about rutting and standing water interfering with fall tillage and manure spreading.

"The fields were getting so you could drive most places, then we had 1.4 inches of rain and little showers since then, making field work stop in most places and deeper ruts where you tried to work," the Clark County reporter shared.

Surplus levels

By the end of the week, 27 percent of the state's topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies were at surplus levels.

"With water standing on low spots, it will take a week of dry weather to get things going again," the Waupaca County reporter observed.

In Buffalo County, farmers were still recovering from earlier flooding.

Up to three inches of rain fell on Manitowoc County on Wednesday, bringing all field work to a standstill. "There may be some farms that will need to wait until the ground freezes to finish harvesting," that reporter noted.

In Bayfield and Douglas counties, with most of the corn silage was off the fields.

By week's end,  52 percent of corn for grain was off the fields, two days behind last year and slightly behind the 5 year average. The average moisture was 19 percent, 1 percentage point lower than the previous week.

The report rated corn condition at 86 percent good to excellent, a slight drop from the previous week.

Corn yields In Eau Claire  County were coming in above average, while Shawano County reported corn yielding very well with moisture in the 17-24 percent range and, for many farmers, soybean yields in the mid to upper 50s for bushels per acre.

Statewide, 86 percent of soybeans were off the fields and in the bins by Oct. 30, seven days behind last year and equal to the five-year average.

In Rusk County, the corn and soybean harvests were coming in with good yields and generally good quality.  Some mold was showing up in some of the corn, the reporter noted, but it was not bad, comparatively.

Creeping and lagging

Fall tillage was creeping along, but there was still a fair amount of crop in the field.  "At this point, it is a trade-off with dropping moisture and losses in the field," he said.

Over two inches of rain fell on Kenosha County on Wednesday and on Vernon County, slowing the harvest and prompting producers there to switch from soybeans to corn in order to keep running.

In Kewaunee County, most soybean fields had been cleared before the rain began falling, but the corn harvest was lagging. "There is water standing in quite a few places, and even fields that are tiled have been having problems carrying the rain away fast enough so the ground can dry," the reporter said, noting weather conditions at this time of year don't really allow for a quick period of drying anyway.

Mud or not, he said, the corn harvest would continue.  "Four-wheel-drive combines have been a must this fall.  There are a lot of ruts producers will have to deal with when doing their fall tillage."

The excessive rain and wet fields will also cause problems with manure applications and raise issues with equipment getting stuck until the ground dries or freezes.

The county's plantings of winter wheat were generally looking good, but opportunities to plug in additional acres were fading. "With the ground saturated and the calendar coming up to November, the chances of anyone planting any more wheat this year are low," he said.

November began with 91 percent of the state's winter wheat planted, with emergence pegged at 72 percent, four days behind last year.  The crop was rated 81 percent good to excellent, a drop of four percentage points from the previous week.

Fall tillage hit 41 percent complete as pasture condition fell four points, ending the week at 67 percent good to excellent. "Pasture condition is getting worse, due to late time of the year," the Bayfield County reporter relayed.

In Portage County, where the cranberry harvest was nearly complete, supplemental feeding of pastured stock had begun.

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.