Farmers endure mixed bag of weather

Carole Curtis
It has been a stormy week across Wisconsin. This was the scene in Fond du Lac County near Dundee.

MADISON - Farmers were served another jumbled plate of weather last week, with warm temperatures, severe storms and less than four days to work their fields.

"Just when it looked like the area might have been starting to experience a dry period, more rain came. And unfortunately, so did some high winds and hail," the Kewaunee County reporter said in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending June 18.

A few Kewaunee corn fields were shredded by the hail. "Any producer who invested in hail insurance will be glad as there will be some claims that will be made," the reporter added in the report created with input from farm reporters and ag agents around the state.

Temperatures for the week ending June 18 were well above normal, running between six and twelve degrees above average at the five main reporting stations, but the heat was accompanied by frequent thunderstorms that slowed fieldwork, interrupted work on the first cutting of hay and the last of the spring planting, and left some farmers accessing crop damage and the need to replant.

Wind, hail, and heavy downpours caused damage to some crops, farm buildings, and ponding in low lying areas.

In Polk County, between two and three inches of rain fell in a hurry as a hail storm hit the southern townships on Thursday, June 11, affecting several hundred acres. There was significant damage to small vegetable farms, the reporter said, and many growers in the affected area were attempting to replant soybeans.

In the central and northern areas of the county, crops were doing well, he added.

High winds and excessive rainfall also battered Marinette and Oconto counties. "The corn and soybeans should recover from the wind damage, but the standing water over growing crops will deteriorate crop conditions," that reporter said.

By week's end, average topsoil moisture supplies were rated 4 percent short, 71 percent adequate and 25 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 3 percent short, 75 percent adequate and 22 percent surplus.

In Dodge County, farmers struggled to complete anything between all the rain showers. "They were working on spraying and side-dressing corn, but had to stop to clean up from the week’s thunderstorms," the local reporter said.

Corn and soybeans on higher ground look good with the heat and rain, he added, but a lot of the low spots are flooded out or not planted due to standing water. "At this point, they won't get planted," he commented.

In Lincoln and Marathon counties, the wet spots in fields are bare. Many corn fields have been replanted or not sprayed, although small grains are looking good - where they were not drowned out.

In Burnett and Washburn counties, the cold and wet soils at planting time reduced germination and corn populations are spotty. "Soybeans are better, but there are some thin spots and, for both, there are many low spots drowned out," the reporter shared. "It's been tough to make hay or any haylage with the frequent rainfall," he added.

By Father's Day, 89 percent of the first cutting of alfalfa was off the field and second cutting was getting underway. The report marked the condition of all hay at 78 percent good to excellent, three percentage points above the previous week.

In Adams and Juneau counties, where the storm dumped up to two inches of rain in about 30 minutes, first cutting hay is very grassy, a combination of winterkill and good growing conditions for grass. "The quality, or feed value, is down, but quantity is there," the reporter said.

In Lincoln and Marathon counties, where much hay is still standing due to the wet weather, many reports came in about problems with ginseng. "Most are about shades being blown down, but the wet weather is very detrimental to this crop," the reporter noted.

Areas not affected by storm damage, crop conditions improved. In Kewaunee County, some corn was already a foot high and soybeans were anywhere from two to six inches. "For the most part, all spring planted crops are doing very well in this area," the reporter said.

Statewide, corn improved one point to 71 percent in good to excellent condition, with emergence pegged at 94 percent, one day ahead of average and eight days behind last year.

Crawford County farmers welcomed the week's rain, saying it really helped the corn and soybeans. Most were wrapping up their soybean planting, while some in the Kickapoo River bottoms were struggling to remove last year’s crop before attempting to plant the 2017 crop.

Statewide, soybeans improved two percentage points to 78 percent in good to excellent condition. Ninety-six percent of soybean acres had been planted, four days ahead of the five -year average and ten days behind last year. Emergence was 84 percent, equal to the average and eight days behind 2016.

Oats condition gained three percentage points to close the week at 81 percent good to excellent. Heading was tallied at 22 percent, seven days behind average and eight days behind last year.

Pasture condition stayed steady at 80 percent good to excellent, but the condition of potatoes dropped slightly, coming in two percentage points lower at 85 good to excellent.

Winter wheat dropped three percentage points to 73 percent in good to excellent condition, with 80 percent of the crop headed, 11 percentage points behind last year.

In Walworth County, the rains were needed and welcomed. "Planting has finally come to a close," the reporter observed. "It has been a long and frustrating planting season."

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