While the dry weather has been great for outdoor projects in Grant, Lafayette and Iowa counties, the crops are suffering.
The signs of drought are visible from every part of southwest Wisconsin. Platteville’s last measurable rainfall was June 29, which was all of 0.04 inches. Platteville set record high temperatures July 3–7.
Two meetings will be held on Friday, July 20, to discuss the impacts of the dry spell and the options producers have. The first meeting will be at First National Bank in Platteville at 9:30 a.m., and the second will be at Bridges Restaurant in Darlington at 1 p.m.
“The crops are under a lot of stress with it being so dry,” said Ted Bay, UW–Extension Office crops and farm management agent for Grant and Lafayette counties. “At the meetings we will talk about how to deal with drought stress.”
Scheduled to speak at the meetings in addition to Bay are Shawn Conley, UW–Extension soybean specialist; Joe Lauer, UWEX specialist; Kevin Esser of Esser Crop Insurance LLC; and Mike North of First Capitol Ag. Kevin Raisbeck, vice president and agricultural lending officer, and the First National Bank ag lending team will be at the Platteville meeting.
“We had near-normal rainfall until late May and early June, which is when we started seeing the physical symptoms of the drought,” said Bay.
Bay said some producers remember the drought of 1988 and are comparing this growing season to that one. However, Bay said the 2012 crops were off to a strong start before the drought, giving them the chance to survive the dry spell.
Bay said the corn and soybeans are going into tasseling and flowering, a critical time for the plants to be under moisture stress. The drought could lead to lower seed pod counts, fewer peas within the pods and fewer kernels on ears of corn, leading to a very significant reduction in crop yield.
While the corn and soybeans are noticeably suffering in the dry conditions, Bay said winter wheat yields and quality were both good. However, the alfalfa crop has suffered a little. Bay said the first crop of alfalfa was good because of the warm spring, but the second and especially the third crop have been cut at a reduced yield.
Other issues Bay has come across include the pasture production almost ceasing, leaving farmers to feed their livestock hay much earlier than anticipated.
“This is a very costly event for producers,” he said.
Bay said he’s had some producers ask about chopping the corn now to provide feed for the livestock. He doesn’t recommend it unless the corn is already brown and drying because it would be too wet to be put in the silo.
“We have to wait as long as we can with the hope that it will rain soon,” said Bay. “If it rains, it will be the savior for all of the crops. If it doesn’t rain by July 20 then we’ll have a better idea of what to do and how to help the producers.”
Bay also said there may be more instances of livestock getting pneumonia from seeking indoor shelter from the excessive heat. He recommended keeping barns well ventilated. The heat could also cause some reproductive issues with a decline in reproductive performance. That, too, will be discussed at the meeting.
On July 9, Gov. Scott Walker declared a drought emergency in 42 counties, enabling farmers to contact the Department of Natural Resources to seek an expedited permit to use stream or lake water for irrigation.
Farm families can seek advice and information on any farming related concern from the Wisconsin Farm Center at DATCP by calling 1-800-942-2474, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The center is staffed weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Farmers can use the UW Extension’s “Drought 2012” resource website, which provides frequent updates and useful information on subjects ranging from groundwater levels, crop insurance and the effects of heat stress on livestock. The Web address is fyi.uwex.edu/drought2012.