Fingers crossed for a late frost

Colleen Kottke

MADISON - While the crops out in the field are looking good, they have a long way to go before they're ready to be harvested.

Farmers are eager to being chopping corn silage, however, cold, wet weather has slowed the crops' maturity.

Rainy weather and cooler temperatures during the month of August gave hay crops a boost, but farmers fear their spring planted crops won't fare as well and could use several more weeks to reach maturity - that's if an early frost doesn't drop the curtain on this year's growing season.

Another week of below-normal temperatures rounded out an overall cool month of August. Overnight lows dipped into the 40s across most of the state, with areas near the Michigan border falling into the 30s.

"The cool temps aren't helping the corn and soybeans mature very fast," the Adams/Juneau County reporter said in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending September 3. "Everyone has their fingers crossed that we don't have a frost until the end of October."

Scattered rains slowed down the harvest in the eastern and central portions of the state. Some reporters noted that soils were once again too wet to support machinery.

A reporter in Shawano County said heavy rains earlier in the week left water standing in every field including alfalfa fields.

"Most corn is just starting to dent and some farmers will want to start chopping even though the fields are very wet," the reporter said. "Alfalfa is growing well but very difficult to get it off with soft fields and ruts left behind. Cool weather predicted for the next several days isn't what we need as our crops have a long way to go to reach maturity."

Several reporters across the state observed that fourth-crop alfalfa is excellent.

"It should enter dormancy later this fall in very good shape," said the Fond du Lac/Washington County reporter. "Meanwhile, corn and beans putt along."

The report noted that 79 percent of Wisconsin's corn has reached the dough stage or beyond, two days behind the five-year average. Thirty-three percent of the corn has reached the dented stage, nearly a week behind average.

There were scattered reports of corn reaching maturity and being harvested for silage. The Kewaunee County reporter predicts that the silage harvest may begin by the end of September.

The report rated the corn condition at 72 percent good to excellent.

Several counties also made good progress harvesting alfalfa. The third cutting of alfalfa reached 94 percent complete, nearly a week ahead of the average. Fourth cutting was reported at 45 percent complete, three days ahead of average.

The report noted that 95 percent of the state's soybean crops were setting pods, three days behind average. Leaves were turning color on 12 percent of the state's crop. Although the soybean condition was rated 75 percent good to excellent.

Reporters found many small grain fields to be overripe, but reported quantity is less than normal as a result of the cool spring weather.

The Shawano reported wrote that a few soybean fields are beginning to show a little color, but attributed some of the change in several fields to white mold setting in.

The weekly 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.