Wisconsin's 2013 crop year: A year of extremes

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It was an extremely wet and unusually cold spring statewide, with the fourth wettest April and the twelfth wettest May since record keeping began in 1895. Snow and standing water left fields impassible to machinery and multiple freezes damaged overwintered crops, but the extended cold conditions allowed record high maple syrup production.

On April 28th, spring tillage was only 4 percent complete, 32 percentage points below the five year average and the lowest total for that date in the past 30 years. Farmers struggled to finish planting throughout June as topsoil moistures hovered between 35 and 44 percent surplus. Areas of southern Wisconsin reportedly received up to 11 inches of rain in the final week of June, causing localized flooding and crop damage.

Topsoil moistures then fell dramatically throughout the twelfth driest July in the past 119 years, with 0.90 inches less rain statewide than in July 2012. Despite two brief heat waves, temperatures were below normal for most of July and August, with some light frosts reported in northern Wisconsin the week ending August 18.

Though the northeast received above normal precipitation in August, the rest of the state was well below normal, causing drought conditions to develop across the west. Statewide, topsoil moistures were 79 percent short to very short on September 8th, compared to 71 percent short to very short on September 8, 2012. The lack of heat and moisture kept crop development indications consistently behind normal. Above average temperatures and rains in September and early October helped to alleviate moisture shortages and push crops toward maturity. But temperatures plunged in the latter half of October, halting the growing season.

Multiple rain and snow events slowed fieldwork throughout November. Fall tillage was 63 percent complete statewide on November 25, 9 percentage points behind the five year average.

Statewide temperatures from June to September were 0.1 degrees above normal in 2013, compared to 2.0 degrees above normal in 2012. April through August had below normal temperatures, with April averaging 6.4 degrees below normal. September had above normal temperatures, averaging 2.0 degrees above normal. The month with the greatest departure from normal was March, which averaged 6.6 degrees below normal.

Precipitation totals for April through September were above normal across the state, with a statewide total of 23.85 inches. This was 6.12 inches above the total for 2012 and 1.34 inches above normal. Total precipitation in the northern third of the state was 1.22 inches above normal for April through September, the central third of the state was 0.86 inches below normal, and the southern third of the state was 4.13 inches above normal.

Statewide, April through June had above normal precipitation, while July through September had below normal precipitation. Of the nine reporting districts, five had Aprils in the top five wettest on record, with the Southeast district breaking the previous record. Four districts had Mays in the top ten wettest on record and four had Julys in the top ten driest on record.

CORN
Wisconsin Review Due to cold, wet conditions in April, corn was only 4 percent planted on May 5, 22 percentage points below the five year average. Planting dragged on through May and June as farmers worked around wet spots and dodged rain storms.

Reporters noted that some fields intended for corn for grain were switched to soybeans and shorter season varieties, and that wet conditions interfered with spraying. Corn reached 98 percent emerged on July 7, a full 20 days behind the five year average. Sixty three percent of the crop was rated in good to excellent condition on that date. Condition then declined due to lack of precipitation; corn on light soils was reportedly showing drought stress only three weeks into July, even in areas where moisture had been excessive.

Inadequate precipitation combined with late planting and below average temperatures kept development behind normal statewide. Corn silage harvest began the week ending September 1, with farmers chopping non‐pollinated and dried up corn to supplement short feed supplies and poor pastures. Corn for grain harvest began the week ending September 29. However, rains throughout October and November meant high grain moistures and soggy fields.

On November 24, corn for grain was 82 percent harvested, 5 points behind the five year average. Reporters noted that yields were highly variable and that some corn intended for dry grain was taken for silage or high moisture corn instead.

SOYBEANS
Wisconsin Review One percent of soybeans were planted on May 12, 12 points behind the five year average. Planting and emergence then fell further and further behind average throughout May and June. On June 16, soybeans were 72 percent planted and 49 percent emerged, compared to a five year average of 97 percent planted and 84 percent emerged.

Planting continued through mid‐July because of wet field conditions and because some fields intended for corn were switched to soybeans late in the season. Soybeans were 98 percent emerged and 66 percent in good to excellent condition on July 14. The late start combined with cool temperatures and low soil moisture kept the crop’s development between 10 and 20 percent behind normal throughout the summer.

These conditions also reportedly interfered with pollination and pod fill. There were wide variations in soybean condition as soil moistures bottomed out on September 8, with 27 percent of the crop in poor to very poor condition and 42 percent in good to excellent condition. Reports of drought damaged soybeans being chopped for forage came in through

September as leaves turning and dropping leaves indications continued to trail the average. However, warm temperatures and rains in that month helped the crop to mature. The harvest got underway with 3 percent harvested on September 29, compared to 38 percent the previous year and 12 percent average. Yields were reportedly average to below average, and some reporters noted that combining was difficult because plants were low to the ground.

The harvest reached 97 percent complete on November 24.

OATS
Wisconsin Review Oat planting saw a record late start due to this spring’s wet conditions. Oats were only 5 percent planted on April 28, 46 points below the five year average.

This broke the previous record low of 7 percent planted on April 28, 2011. Planting and emergence remained well below normal throughout May and June, with planting hitting 94 percent complete on June 9. On June 16, oat emergence reached 96 percent, and 68 percent of oats were in good to excellent condition statewide. 

Due to the late start and adverse weather, both development and harvest of the crop remained behind normal. Harvest began in mid July and ran about a week behind average, wrapping up with 96 percent harvested on September 8. There were widespread reports of oats being double‐cropped for supplemental forage.

HAY & PASTURES

Wisconsin Review
Wisconsin Review

Wisconsin’s hay stands were very slow to break dormancy this year due to below average temperatures. On May 19, winter freeze damage to alfalfa was rated at 19 percent severe, 23 percent moderate, and 24 percent light, with no damage to 34 percent of stands statewide.

All cuttings of hay this year lagged slightly behind the five year average, and nearly a month behind 2012’s record early haying season. The first cutting began on May 26, as feed shortages and the rapidly maturing crop reportedly forced farmers to cut around wet spots. Soggy conditions held up the first cutting and made drying hay nearly impossible in May and June. The second cutting grew quickly due to abundant moisture and was cut quickly as the ground firmed in July. However, dry, cool conditions slowed regrowth and lowered the quality and quantity of the third and fourth crops, putting pressure on already tight hay supplies.

The third cutting wrapped up with 95 percent complete on September 22. The fourth cutting was 46 percent harvested on that date, 16 percent behind the five year average. Some producers were unable to take a fourth crop this year due to the late start and drought stress on hay stands. Rains in October and November helped fall seedings emerge and bolstered existing stands for winter. Hay and roughage supplies were 26 percent short statewide on November 4.

Snow, rain, flooding and low temperatures in April started pastures out in poor shape this year. The lack of good pasture combined with feed shortages and weather‐related calf losses reportedly made it a difficult spring for livestock producers. Conditions improved through May and June, with 87 percent of pasture statewide in good to excellent condition on June 30.

However, the dry weather of July and August was hard on pastureland with 61 percent in poor to very poor condition by September 15. Rains in the fall helped to improve condition and prepare pastures to overwinter.

Wisconsin Review





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