The fields of November have come to north-central Wisconsin. A summer breeze characterized conditions before this crop report – and then a cold front moved in Nov. 9. The front came with more than an inch of rain, saturating newly harvested fields and quieting leaf rustle on the woodlot floor where the acorn harvest is unimpeded by the rain. Creeks are running high. I keep hearing the term “wintry mix” when I hit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather-radio forecast button. Our brief “Indian summer” was delightful but fleeting.
Farmers took advantage of the warm temperatures and dry field conditions to progress through corn for grain harvest. Wisconsin’s average moisture level in the corn crop is 18 percent. In the north-central region 60 percent of corn acreage has been harvested. The soybean harvest is close to 100 percent in the bin. Winter wheat is 80 percent emerged, with 80 percent good-to-excellent condition as it heads into winter.
Harvest progress is a month ahead of 2019 for corn and beans. Fields that are yet to be harvested will likely need to wait until freeze-up now that rains have fallen. Tillage operations are also on hold, with 30 percent complete in and around Marathon County. Bunkers are full of silage and round bales line the edges of fields in neat rows. Set-stocked pastures are bare and forage supplementation has begun for livestock farmers. Managed pastures are on their last round of rationing for most grazing-based farms.
As I leave my woodlot property at dusk the road ditches stir with rutting deer. A bare stretch of woods along a gravel road reveals an old apple tree laden with green fruit the size of fast-pitch softballs. It’s the only hint of color against a grey sky and stark trees. In town the rain-slick streets reflect the greens, reds and yellows of stoplights; colors that dominated the woodlot just a few weeks ago. The seasons roll on. Stay safe as this harvest season nears completion.