Farmers hit their fields in earnest

Carole Curtis
Now Media Group


Wisconsin farmers took to their fields last week, as warm, sunny weather propelled rapid planting progress and pushed spring tillage well ahead of typical.

'Tractors were busy in the fields this past week, spreading manure, fertilizer, spraying, tilling and planting some corn,' the Columbia County reporter said in the 'Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report' for the week ending April 24.

Scattered showers did interrupt their efforts a bit, trimming the number of days suitable for fieldwork to just less than five. In some areas, planters remained idle because soil temperatures were still cooler than optimal for planting corn.

Corn planters got rolling in Walworth County and, in Rock County, were running day and night.

By the end of the week, the state's corn planting had pulled ahead of the norm. Ten percent of the crop was in, putting this year three days ahead of last year and four days ahead of the five-year average.

A look back over the past 10 years shows 2016 in second place, topped only by 2010 when 18 percent of the corn crop was in by April 24. The year 2012 comes in third at 9 percent.

In Price and Taylor counties, farmers bustled through spring tillage. Manure was going out and some fields were planted to small grains and corn before an inch of Sunday rain put on the brakes.

Despite the wet weekend weather, 37 percent of the state's spring tillage was polished off by April 24, a good four days ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of the five-year average.

Oats, barley, potatoes, peas, vegetables and new hay seedings were also being planted, while manure spreading and fertilizer applications continued.

By April 24, 30 percent of the potato crop in the ground, up from the previous week's 9 percent, but two days behind last year.

A good 37 percent of oats were in, one day behind 2015, but five days ahead of the five-year average. Four percent of the oat crop had emerged.

Statewide, topsoil moisture fell from the previous week's 27 percent surplus to end the week at 21 percent surplus, 71 percent adequate, 7 percent short and 1 percent very short.

Subsoil moisture fell from 27 percent surplus to 18 percent surplus, 78 percent adequate, 4 percent short and zero percent very short.

The state was split on moisture. In the central and western regions, some soils were getting unfavorably dry and rain was needed, even as fields in some areas of northeastern Wisconsin were still too muddy to work.

Cropping and tillage levels followed suit. While farmers in the southwest district had polished off 64 percent of spring tillage and planted 64 percent of their oats, farmers in the northeast district had 12 percent of their tillage done and 11 percent of their oats planted.

In Trempealeau County, cattle began moving to pastures and some early peas got planted. 'Most soils are drying rapidly on the surface,' that reporter shared, while the reporter for Iowa/Richland/Sauk counties said rain was needed.

In Adams, Marquette and Waushara counties, center pivots were already running, while the reporter for Outagamie/Shawano counties finished combining his soybeans from 2015.

In Clark County, the ground was dry enough to till, but, at 47 degrees, it was too cold. Instead, farmers concentrated on manure hauling and preparing planting equipment.

In Florence and Forest counties, manure was spread, but that was about it. 'Cool, cloudy conditions are keeping the soils cold and wet,' the reporter shared.

In Fond du Lac County, tillage and planting were up to full speed and pastures, alfalfa and wheat crops were much improved. 'They're pulling out of their wet funk,' the reporter said.

Alfalfa stands were also looking very good in Chippewa County.

Statewide, the condition of overwintered crops was improving steadily. Pasture condition rose one percentage point to 81 percent in fair to good condition, while winter wheat gained three percentage points to end the week at 82 percent good to excellent.

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.