Farmers welcome sun

Carole Curtis
Now Media Group


The weather did a 180 last week, swinging from cold and sloppy to warm, bright and beautiful.

"Wow. What a difference a week makes, no spring tillage had started yet, but near record-high temperatures over the past few days have changed that. Many acres of corn and oats have been planted."

Temperatures ratcheted up throughout the week, the report said, ending on a high note with daytime highs in the upper 70s and low 80s.

Eau Claire recorded a low of 19 degrees and a high of 81, while La Crosse bounced from a low of 25 to a high of 82 degrees. Green Bay hit 74 degrees and Madison topped out at 78.

The sunny and breezy conditions, combined with minimal precipitation, helped fields dry. Topsoil moisture levels declined from the previous week's 45 percent surplus to 27 percent surplus, while subsoil moistures dropped from 37 percent surplus to 27 percent.

The southeast district had the wettest topsoil with 62 percent surplus, while the southwest and central districts were the driest with surpluses of 12 and 14 percent, respectively. In the central district, topsoil moisture was actually rated 2 percent very short.

The drier conditions gave fieldwork a jumpstart. "The spring field season is in full swing," the Sawyer County reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and ag agents. "Manure hauling, spring tillage and planting of small grains is getting underway, and the pastures and hay fields are starting to green up."

A good warm rain would really bring things to life, he added.

Although the week had 3.9 days classified as suitable for fieldwork, the spread was substantial. It ranged from over five full days in the west central, central, southwest and south central districts to 1.2 days in the northeast and east central districts.

Farmers played the hand they were dealt. Although the fields were still too wet for planting in some areas, oats and alfalfa were going into the ground quickly where the ground was dry and suitable.

There was no field activity in Ashland and Iron counties although, by the end of the week, some fieldwork had begun in Marinette County and manure applications ramped up.

In Door and Kewaunee counties, the fields were very wet for the most part. "Significant fieldwork is still a couple weeks away," the reporter shared. "We need some dry weather and sun before most can get out the fields."

Grant County farmers hit the fields on the days when it wasn't raining and too windy. "Tillage and spraying were getting done quickly, and some planters can be seen in the fields," that reporter shared.

Manure hauling fired up in La Crosse County as farmers readied for spring planting. "Some machinery can be seen in yards, having oil changes in preparation for a busy few weeks ahead," the reporter observed.

In Washburn County, soils had dried out enough to plant small grains, haul manure and dig into first tillage. Soil conditions were good in Eau Claire, sparking the seeding of alfalfa and small grains and rapid progress with manure applications and primary tillage.

Statewide, spring tillage bounced from the previous week's 2 percent complete to 14 percent by week's end, pulling equal with last year and three days ahead of the five-year average.

The report pegged oat planting at 16 percent complete, two days behind 2015 and one percentage point behind the five-year average. One percent of the oat crop had emerged.

In Portage and Wood Counties, peas and potatoes went in the ground all week, as dairies hauled manure. "It's an excellent start to the planting season, but very dry on the light ground," the reporter said. "We need the rain being predicted."

The potatoes planted across central and southern Wisconsin kicked the state total from zero to 9 percent by April 17, one week behind last year. Spud planting had yet to begin in most of the northern portions of the state.

Winter wheat hay and pastures liked the warm conditions, responding with a burst of growth.

The week ended with a pasture condition rating of 80 percent fair to good, up from the previous week's 77 percent.

In Dodge County, crops appeared to have overwintered nicely. "Winter wheat and alfalfa look like they are in great shape with no winter kill," the reporter said.

However, in Ozaukee and Sheboygan counties, the winter wheat crop looked better three weeks ago. "With the cold and wet conditions, some areas are turning brown," the reporter said. "We'll see if the crops respond favorably to the warmer temps."

Statewide, winter wheat held its own, maintaining the previous week's mark of 79 percent in good to excellent condition.

In Green County, where the majority of winter wheat and alfalfa also came through winter well, many farmers completed their seeding of oats and alfalfa. Lots of manure and fertilizer was applied and some corn was planted.

By week's end, 1 percent of the state's corn crop in the ground, the report said, noting many producers were holding off until their soil warms up.

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.