Crops suffer after cold, wet 2018

December 15, 2018

MADISON -- A cold and wet start to the 2018 growing season coupled with several severe weather events created a challenging year for Wisconsin farmers affecting their crop progress, specifically corn and soybeans, with both of them suffering the most this year, according to a recent report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Dodge, Jefferson and their neighboring south central counties including Columbia, Dane, Green Lake and Rock saw nearly 37 inches of rain from April through September, NASS states, which 13 inches above normal rain totals.

The NASS report offers yearly crop reviews and states the start of the growing season was hampered by below normal temperatures and frequent snowfalls in some areas of Wisconsin in April.

Snow and cold soils delayed the beginning of corn planting this year. By April 29, only 3% of corn was planted, five days behind the five-year average, which runs from 2014-18. Planting caught up to the average by late May with favorable weather, and progress remained ahead of average through the rest of the year. Sixty-eight percent of the state’s corn crop was in either excellent or good condition at October’s end, which was the first time it was below 70% since 2014, according to NASS.

Corn condition, however, peaked at 91% good to excellent in early June before declining slowly throughout the summer and fall.

For Wisconsin’s soybean crop, only 71% was in either excellent or good condition at October’s end, which put this year to 2014 for the lowest percentage over the five-year period, according to NASS reports. Corn and soybeans realized a steep decline in condition levels from its peak levels in June.

Severe thunderstorms hit the state in mid-June, missing some areas, bringing much needed moisture to others, and causing some localized flooding. Warm weather in late June and early July pushed overall crop progress ahead over the five-year average.

Crops in the central and southern areas of Wisconsin were hit by storms in August and September that brought with it tornadoes, strong winds, hail, downpours and major flooding. In the northern part of the state, an April blizzard put the growing season at a standstill, which was then followed by a period of dry weather, according to the National Weather Service station in Green Bay.

The statewide precipitation total for the growing season beginning in April through September was just above 27 inches, compared to about 26 inches in 2017 with a normal of 22 inches. It was also the snowiest April on record for Wisconsin, with a statewide average of 18 inches more snow than normal.

The massive influx of moisture set the state up for a difficult harvest season. Continuing wet weather kept soil moistures high for the remainder of the growing season causing frustration for farmers in their fields.

Farmers struggled with frequent precipitation, deep mud and in some areas of the state the emergence of damp-driven molds throughout October and November. Below-normal temperatures in mid-November then froze the ground, finally allowing farmers access to unharvested fields, but halting tillage. On Nov. 25, fall tillage was 68 percent complete, a day ahead of last year, but four days behind average.

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