Scattered showers interrupt fieldwork, dryness varies across state

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
A flock of geese take over a harvest wheat field in Waukesha County.

Dryness is starting to show in many areas of the state as spotty, inconsistent precipitation was causing severe drought symptoms, while other areas saw hail that shredded corn and soybeans last week. 

Between scattered showers, farmers were harvesting hay, straw and small grains but crop stress varied widely due to dry soil conditions, sometimes even within the same county, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending Aug. 5. 

The dry conditions aren't hampering weeds however, as reporters noted issues with weed control, along with isolated reports of bear and insect damage. 

A small amount of rain in Ashland and Iron counties wasn't enough to ease the dry conditions. In Chippewa and Eau Claire counties, much-needed rain arrived, but it was too late to help some corn fields on light soils, the reporter noted. 

Rusk and Sawyer counties received about 1.5 inches of rain, but that still wasn't enough to make up for the lack of precipitation. Rainfall in Monroe County has been inconsistent in the county with some areas "in bad need of decent rainfall amounts and crops are showing severe drought symptoms," said the reporter, yet, "other areas are looking really nice at this time."

"Hit and miss thunder showers kicked off this crop period which saw some improvements during the week despite marginally adequate soil moisture," the reporter in Fond du Lac and Washington counties said. "Hopefully everyone will see a good rain on the sixth — it would really help with the corn and beans as they begin to set kernels and pods. Weed and insect pressures are, by and by, low."

Dryness was starting to show in Rock County, but widespread rain on Aug. 5, helped fill pods and kernels, according to the report. 

Vernon County received a half an inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain. "Pasture ground showing signs of stress and declining due to lack of rain," said the reporter. "Overall, crops still look good and no storm damage activity to report to date."

That wasn't the case in Calumet County where crops are looking good except in areas where hail shredded corn and soybeans. "Fortunately, the wheat had been harvested," the reporter noted. 

In Shawano County "crops are moving along fine, but so are the weeds," said the reporter. "This past week numerous fields that looked clean now have some palmer amaranth and waterhemp showing their ugly heads. Farmers and agronomists (are) trying to figure out ways to keep these under control. Farmers in states to the south of us have been dealing with these resistant weeds for a couple of years already."

Hay making continues in all counties with third crop complete in Calumet County and in Portage County, good quality with low yields reported. 

The second cutting of hay was reported at 96 percent complete, three days ahead of last year, and third cutting at 52 percent complete, one day ahead of last year. Fourth cutting had just begun. 

Winter wheat was reported as 82 percent complete, four days ahead of last year. Oats turning color was at 93 percent, five days ahead of last year, with oats harvested for grain at 36 percent complete. 

Eighty-seven percent of the state’s corn acreage has reached the silking stage, five days ahead of last year. Twenty-eight percent of the corn has reached the dough stage, six days ahead of last year.

Soybeans are two days ahead of last year with 88 percent bloomed and 64 percent setting pods. 

Potato harvest is eight days behind last year, reported as 9 percent complete. 

All crops were reported between 80 - 86 percent good to excellent.