Crop season sputters open

Carole Curtis
Now Media Group


The 2016 growing season fired up with a tantalizing taste of spring in March that faded away in April.

'Spring has gone back into the bottle here in the North,' the Rusk County reporter said in the first 'Wisconsin Crop & Condition Report' of the 2016 growing season.

The report issued April 5 told of well above normal temperatures through much of March.

Warm days and nights and frequent rains meant long stretches of little or no snow cover, and rapid melting of any snow received.

It didn't stick. April rode in on below-average temperatures, heavy rain and snow as mud and standing water kept farmers off their fields and thwarted any fieldwork.

According to the report, the week ending April 3 held a mere 0.8 days considered suitable for fieldwork as temperatures sank to a low of 24 degrees in Eau Claire and Madison and wet weather overspread the state.

Waupaca County was already 'very soggy' when 1.6 inches of rain on Thursday, topped off by two inches of wet snow on Saturday.

'The week has been mostly cold and unfavorable for the beginning of spring fieldwork,' that reporter observed.

In Chippewa County, where over two inches of rain and two inches of snow fell, maple sap collectors were mudding out the goods.

'It's very wet here, with standing water in most fields. Could be a late spring?' the local reporter shared in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents around the state.

The maple syrup season continued in northern Wisconsin, the report noted, but was wrapping up in central Wisconsin.

It was cold and wet in Florence County, with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees F below normal and a mix of rain and snow that morphed into all snow on Sunday, ending with two inches fresh on the ground.

Waupaca County also got 2 inches of snow, and Portage County tallied 3 inches. Vernon County received a combination of sun, snow and over 2 inches of rain.

'Farmers are dealing with mud everywhere,' the reporter said. 'We're looking forward to some sun and dry weather.'

Moisture in surplus

Statewide, topsoil moisture levels were tagged at 42 percent surplus, compared to last year's 9 percent on April 3. Subsoil moisture levels were 41 percent surplus, compared to last year's 7 percent.

In Clark County, the soils were saturated. 'Pastures are becoming mud if cattle are on them,' the reporter said. Manitowoc County was in the same shape, effectively putting the brakes on any type of fieldwork activity.

In areas where anything was moving, manure hauling was the most commonly reported activity. 'There's no field activity, other than a little manure hauling and then only in the morning when the ground is frozen,' the Rusk County reporter noted.

There were a few reports of tillage. In Crawford County, conditions were dry enough for area farmers to harvest remaining 2015 corn, do a bit of tilling and apply animal waste and anhydrous ammonia.

By April 3, spring tillage was at 1 percent complete statewide, equal to last year and to the five-year average.

One percent of the state's oat crop was in the ground. Green County mentioned that a few oats were seeded during the week, but that was about it for work.

Although the earlier warm weather sparked green up in pastures, hay and winter cereals, that growth stalled as temperatures dropped. 'Winter cereals greened up in March, but have started going backwards now with areas of brown,' the Rusk County reporter said.

Winter wheat good

Overall, the winter wheat crop was pegged at 79 percent in good to excellent condition.

The report rated the state's pastures at 51 percent in good to excellent condition, a nice mark compared to last year's 23 percent on April 5. There was little winter kill reported in alfalfa and winter grains.

The weekly 'Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition 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.