An inch of rain here, two inches of rain there on top of another inch of rain and pretty soon you're dealing with soggy soil too wet to till or plant. During the first two weeks of May, there were more days that it rained than were dry in most of Wisconsin. Add to that, cold temperatures which kept soil temperatures hovering around 42 degrees the first week of May in east central Wisconsin and you have a spring planting season that is off to a dismally slow start.
As of May 11, only 20% of the state's corn crop has been planted, compared to the five-year average of 41%. But 20% is a huge improvement from just one week before on May 4 when just 2% of corn had been planted statewide, according to the Ag Statistics Service.
Only 13% of spring tillage was completed by May 4, compared to the five-year average of 42%. Some farmers across southern Wisconsin were able to get in the fields May 5 and 6 before more rain moved in on May 6 bringing fieldwork and planting to a grinding halt. Showers and storms continued on May 7, 8 and 9 assuring the vast majority of farmers little or no opportunity to plant corn before Mother's Day on May 11 – the day most farmers in the southern half of the state hope to finish planting corn.
Nationally, corn planting is progressing at an average rate. As of May 11, 58% of the corn crop was planted compared to the five-year average of 59%.
Temperatures soared into the upper 70s and low 80s on May 8 – the first 70-degree day in Wisconsin since Oct. 12. High temperatures were in the 70s again May 9-11. But temperatures dropped into the 60s, which is near normal, on May 13 and 14 but are predicted to slide back into the 50s May 15-16 before rising to the mid-60s May 17-19. The average high temperature for this time of year is 65 degrees.
Heavy rains May 11 through May 13 across the state have left most fields untouched this week. With more rain forecast May 15 and 16 and May 20-24, farmers will have to wait and hurry up and then hurry up and wait again to get more corn planted.
Even though it is later than most farmers wanted to plant corn, a lot of corn can be planted in one week, especially with the large equipment many farmers have today.
This spring is shaping up a lot like last year when only 74% of the state's corn crop was planted by June 4. However, warmer than normal weather last September and October allowed much of the late-planted corn crop to reach maturity.
If there is one saving grace for dairy farmers, the cool temperatures have delayed the maturity of the alfalfa crop so farmers won't be trying to finish up planting corn at the same time they are harvesting alfalfa. Alfalfa across the southern two tiers of counties likely won't be ready to harvest before Memorial Day on May 26 and after June 1 in central portions of the state. These are dates when many farmers aim to finish harvesting first-crop alfalfa, but not this year. Another plus is most of the alfalfa crop looks like it escaped winter damage with 82% reported in good to excellent condition.
So bottom line, keep your patience packed, have your equipment ready to go, make sure you have all of your seed and fertilizer on hand so you can get planting as soon as the weather allows.