Snow, cold prevent fieldwork in Wisconsin

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
An empty hay wagon sits as a reminder of crops waiting to emerge or be planted while geese enjoy leftovers from harvest. Snow and cold temperatures have put spring fieldwork on hold for much of the state.

With many counties in the state still reporting snow cover and frost in the ground, winter hasn't quite shaken its hold on Wisconsin, and forecasts call for more snow and cold across the state. 

In the southern part of the state, famers are starting to spread fertilizer, but cold soils only offered two days suitable for fieldwork for the week ending April 1, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

Although temperatures were close to normal last week, a cold front pushed into northern Wisconsin over the weekend, dumping heavy snow on top of preexisting snow in portions of the state, keeping fields inaccessible. 

It's still winter in Sawyer County with 10 - 12 inches of snow being dumped on the area over the weekend. "There was nearly 2 feet of snow left on the ground in some areas," one reporter said. Forecasted cold temperatures will keep the snow pack from melting and has slowed maple sap running in the county. 

"It's not very likely we will see any crops planted or field work for at least two more weeks, maybe even longer," the reporter noted. 

Bayfield and Douglas counties are still under a substantial snow cover and a late spring is anticipated this year.

Most of the snow was gone in Florence County until the weekend storm dropped 8 - 10 inches on the county. There is concern about new seeding fields with possible winterkill in some northern counties.

In Adams and Juneau counties, it hasn't been warm enough for any progress with field work, but some alfalfa started to emerge. However, snow and below freezing temperatures will prevent determining the condition of the forage and winter wheat crops for a few more weeks. 

Warm periods teased us in February and March. Those milder temperatures, combined with less than normal precipitation, kept fields bare in much of southern Wisconsin. However, the cold nights meant soils were still frozen in many areas. 

Even so, producers in Iowa, Richland, and Sauk counties have started to cut seed potatoes with the anticipation of starting to plant around April 10 - 15.

Producers in Ozaukee and Washington counties are starting to spread fertilizer and in Walworth County have been applying anhydrous ammonia along with a few new seeded hay fields. 

More than 70 percent of topsoil moisture supplies in the state are considered adequate, according to the United State Department of Agriculture Wisconsin Crops Progress and Condition report of April 2, 2018.

With more snow and cold moving through the state this week, reporters say it's too early to asses winterkill in wheat and hay fields. 

For the most part, topsoil moisture and subsoil moisture supplies are adequate with only a small percent looking at very short moisture supplies. 

In Calumet County, lack of snow over the winter has caused concern for a dry spring, but plenty of forecasted snow will hopefully help the situation. 

Warm spring rains to wake things up will be on hold, as will spring tillage, until winter releases its icy grip on Wisconsin.