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Cold, soggy conditions prevail

Carole Curtis
Apricot blossoms unfurled as Earth Day passed and the march into the 2017 planting season continued.

MADISON - Chalk up another drippy, chilly week.

Although there were a few clear days, falling rain kept many Wisconsin fields too soggy to work and cold temperatures overnight produced frost in some areas.

The Waukesha reporter sounded the common refrain in the "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the week ending April 23. "Too wet, too cold," he said.

Precipitation topped an inch in Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse and Milwaukee, pushing their yearly total to near three inches above normal. As of April 23, the state's topsoil moisture supplies were 36 percent surplus and subsoil moisture supplies were 32 percent surplus.

There were, officially,  2.9 days suitable for fieldwork during the week and progress was made where farmers could, spreading nutrients, applying fertilizer, and seeding down oats and potatoes. By Sunday, 19 percent of the state's oats had been planted, two days behind the five-year average, but two days ahead of last year.

In Vernon County, farmers made good use of the week's little window. "Lots of manure hauled, some tillage and a few corn planters started to roll," the local reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

Several producers in Walworth County were also planting corn, but only on lighter soils. "Most fields were still too wet," the reporter noted.

The state's corn planting, occurring mainly in the southern portions of the state, was one percent complete as the week ended.

In Portage County, the heavy rain mid-week stalled most field activity. Some potatoes were planted before and after it fell rain, but only on sandy soils.  "Field work on heavier soils is non-existent. There is water standing in the fields," the reporter said.

By week's end, 17 percent of the state's potatoes were in the ground, six days behind last year.

Soil type was also the key to progress in Monroe County. "Wet soil conditions have slowed most field work in many parts of the county, except for the sandy soils," that reporter observed.

Clark County was dealing with another two inches of rain. "Some Amish are plowing and some hauling of manure is all the field activity," the reporter said. "On Sunday, I did get across one field with the sprayer."

Spring tillage dawdled. As of April 23rd, farmers had completed 13 percent statewide, putting this year seven days behind last year and five days behind the five-year average.

Winter was hanging on in Florence and Forest counties. "We had snow flurries twice during the week and temperatures as low as 23 degrees," that reporter shared.

Midweek, between 1-3 inches of rain saturated the already wet ground. "Hay fields are starting to grow, but we need sun and heat to get them really moving," he added.

Statewide, winter wheat improved four percentage points in condition, ending the week at 64 percent in good to excellent condition.

The condition of the state's pastures also improved, rising from the previous week's 48 percent to 55 percent good to excellent. As the fields of alfalfa and hay greened up, winterkill was becoming evident.

"It is very apparent there is significant winter kill on lots of the hay and alfalfa fields, potentially 50 percent," the Manitowoc County reporter relayed.

In Calumet County, where the week's rains left a lot of standing water, the fields were a mix of colors. "The brown is showing through quite a bit more, showing the poorer conditions on the wheat and alfalfa," the reporter said.

In Chippewa and Eau Claire counties, the alfalfa was looking good in most fields, with some injury in low-lying areas.

The "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" is a cooperative efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and the National Weather Service.