Hay, wheat harvest forges ahead under sunny skies

Colleen Kottke
A spell of dry weather has allowed farmers to get out into  field to bale up hay and straw for the winter months.

MADISON - After some light rains early in the week, Wisconsin farmers enjoyed a block of warm, sunny, and dry days.

All across the state, hay choppers and balers along with combines circled farm fields making hay and combining wheat.

Farmers were able to make headway with the hay and wheat harvest thanks to 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report". This was good news for farmers in western Wisconsin coping with flooding following a heavy storm system..

According to the National Weather Service, LaCrosse reported its fourth-wettest year-to-date through June 19 - a whopping 9 inches above average-to-date. In LaCrosse County crops were looking better this week. However, instead of making hay, many farmers were coping with storm damage, and spending a lot of time getting trees and rocks out of fields, a reporter said.

Some reporters commented that corn and soybeans were recovering well from July’s soggy conditions.

"The area finally got a few nice sunny days to get dry hay baled...much needed dry weather after the heavy rains," said a Vernon County reporter in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state..

In Chippewa County, third crop hay harvest occurring rapidly with excellent drying conditions.

Newly seeded alfalfa in Kewanee County has really taken off since it was planted.

"And for those who got it in in May, it is possible a crop could be harvested from that alfalfa before fall," the reporter said.

As of July 30, topsoil moisture supplies were rated 0 percent very short, 7 percent short, 80 percent adequate and 13 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 0 percent very short, 3 percent short, 81 percent adequate and 16 percent surplus.

Some reporters around the state noted that some crops were in need of moisture, especially those planted on high ground.

This tractor pulling a baler and wagon appear to be sailing on a golden sea of oat straw.

"Things are starting to get dry on sandy soils with less than 2.5 inches of rain in July," said reporters in Burnett and Washburn counties. "While there isn't much plant stress, we could use a good rain."

Farmers in Waushara and Marquette county have also noted dry conditions, adding that rain would help crops planted on high ground.

By the end of July, nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin’s corn has reached the silking stage, eight days behind last year, with just four percent of the corn reaching the dough stage. Current corn crop condition is rated as 70 percent good to excellent, unchanged from last week.

"Corn fields range from very good to yellow stunted corn in low spots and wet fields," the Dane County reporter added.

The warm, sunny weather in Fond du Lac and Washington counties have advanced both the soybean and corn crop, causing the corn to advance silk rapidly.

Seventy-three percent of the state’s soybeans were blooming, with 39 percent setting pods. Soybean condition was rated at 74 percent good to excellent, 2 percentage points above last week.

While some counties have reported the winter wheat harvest in full swing, some reporters noted that humidity was a problem.

"The weather hasn't been the best for taking it off, mainly due to the muggy conditions," observed the Kewaunee County reporter, adding that moisture in the wheat is on the higher side, ranging from around 17 to 18 percent. "However, it is better to harvest it now than wait."

Normally a bountiful by-product of combining oats and wheat, straw may be a well sought after commodity this winter.

"There isn't as much of wheat straw around this year since not as much wheat was planted last fall, so the straw tends to be worth more at the present time," said one reporter.

Winter wheat harvested was reported 40 percent complete, a week behind last year. Winter wheat rated 79 percent good to excellent condition, 4 percentage points above last week.

In the meantime, farmers will continue to make hay while the sun shines.

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.