Sun at end of week helps firm up wet soil across Wisconsin

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
One of several tornadoes that swept across the southern edge of Fond du Lac County left a swath of damaged crops behind.

Rain, rain and more rain started last week by worsening flooding in southern Wisconsin and slowing storm cleanup and damage assessments. By the end of the week, some rivers were still cresting and damage to rural roads and infrastructure were still being repaired, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report.

Once the sun came out towards the end of the week, farmers rushed to make hay and corn silage as soon as conditions allowed. Early corn harvest in parts of northern Wisconsin was due to drought damage and in southern parts of the state to tar spot disease. 

La Crosse County reported some sunshine last week, "but not much." 

"People are starting to get back into the fields although the ground is still very wet. Most days grass is wet until after noon," the La Crosse County reporter said. "Haven't talked to dairy farms yet but with many roads south of Highway 33 washed out, I wonder how many are having problems with getting milk to market."

Tar spot was a widespread concern in Lafayette County, with the reporter expects to see corn harvested before soybeans this fall, "and in many cases, corn and soybeans harvested simultaneously." 

While farmers in Sauk County were hoping flood waters would begin to recede, there was still major flooding along the Baraboo River in Columbia County. 

"Corn, soybeans, and alfalfa are underwater. Some fields only have tassels of corn stalks above the water," the Columbia County reporter said. "Waterhemp is growing in soybean fields and many cornfields are being attacked by tar spot. Farmers will have to be cautious when harvesting flooded crops."

Shawano County got around 7 - 9 inches in 10 days, "which virtually brough field work to a halt," the reporter stated. Farmers started cutting fourth crop hay and started chopping corn as water continued to soak into fields. 

"The rain was badly needed, but just not that much," said the Shawano reporter.

Five to 8 inches of rain in Walworth County stopped field work also, although some corn had been taken off before the rains started. 

Most of Barron County got "just enough rain," however, some areas were not so lucky and ended up dealing with flooding and saturated soils. 

"The wet weather set harvest operations back, but by the end of the week many hay fields were being cut and corn silage harvest had resumed," the Barron reporter said. "Corn and soybean fields that survived the drought are looking very good, but the isolated, permanently wilted fields are going to drag down grain yield averages."

Topsoil moisture supplies were rated as 68 percent adequate and 30 percent surplus, with subsoil moisture supplies at 72 percent adequate and 24 percent surplus. 

All crops were rated between 75 - 76 percent in good to excellent condition, except potatoes, which were 73 percent good to excellent. 

More than 90 percent of the corn has reached dough stage, seven days ahead of last year. Seventy percent of corn was dented, nine days ahead of last year and 21 percent was mature, eight days ahead of the average. Corn harvested for silage was one day ahead of average at 12 percent harvested. 

Fifty-four percent of soybean leaves were turning color, six days ahead of last year and 14 percent were dropping leaves.

Oats harvesting was more than 90 percent complete, even with last year. Thirteen percent of winter wheat has been planted, two days ahead of last year. 

Third cutting of alfalfa was 93 percent complete and fourth cutting at 47 percent complete, seven and five days respectively behind last year. 

Potato harvesting was 12 days behind last year, reported at 28 percent complete.