After Wisconsin farmers got their crops in the ground during planting season, drought conditions worsened, reducing yield potential this growing season. As farmers harvest their corn and soybeans, though, they’re reporting better than expected yields.
Jonathan Gibbs, a fifth-generation farmer in Fox Lake, Wisconsin, says that better than expected yields is the “theme of the year” for Wisconsin farmers. He says the growing season started off with ample moisture this spring before drying up, making for a “fairly nice planting window.”
The dry weather persisted through June and July, Gibbs says. As a result, Gibbs notes that he had some stress when his corn crop started rolling up. “We saw that quite a bit this summer,” he says.
Eight miles to the east of his farm, Gibbs says that rain fell in the third week of June, but didn’t fall on his crops. “That was hard to take,” he admits.
Overall, though, Gibbs says that his crops did manage to get rain when they needed it. “It wasn’t an overabundance of rain, but it was enough.”
When it comes to yields, Gibbs says his winter wheat crop averaged over 100 bushels per acre (bpa). “I attribute that to some of the dryness,” Gibbs says, “because we weren’t fighting the disease triangle.”
Gibbs says his soybeans seemed to show evidence of the challenges of the summer’s drought. Without irrigation on his farm, though, Gibbs says he can’t control the neglect brought on by a lack of rainfall.
Despite the dryness, Gibbs says his soybeans have averaged 55 to 60 bpa on the more challenging ground on his farm. The soybeans on the better soil averaged 70 bpa, he says, which is higher than he anticipated. “Did I expect 60 to 70 bushels per acre?” Gibbs asks. “Probably not.”
While he hasn’t harvested much of his corn crop yet, Gibbs says he’s been surprised by the yields so far. The corn crop he’s harvested has yielded an average of 210 bpa, with some acres yielding 231 bpa.
“I really thought we’d be in that 190 to 200 bushels per acre-range this year,” Gibbs says.
Patrick Mullooly, president of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board and a farmer in Clinton, Wisconsin, also notes his yields were better than expected after the weather was dry from the middle of May to the middle of July.
“Across the bulk of our land we had less than 2 inches of rain from planting until July,” Mullooly says. In July, though, 7 inches of rain fell throughout the month, “just in the nick of time” to help the crops keep going, Mullooly says.
Compared to three months ago, drought conditions have eased across Wisconsin, according to the latest drought monitor map. The latest map shows that less than 1% of the state is in D3 extreme drought. Sixteen percent of Wisconsin is in D2 severe drought, 18% is in D1 moderate drought, and 32% of the state is abnormally dry. Almost 34% of the state reports no drought stress, compared to just 2% of the state’s acres free of drought at the beginning of August.
Mullooly says he wrapped up harvesting soybeans on Oct. 10, and yields averaged 60 bpa. He says corn harvest has been taking place between rain and snow, and has been averaging 200 bpa and higher.
Even though the fall rains have slowed corn harvest, Mullooly says that the precipitation has been helping to replenish his subsoil moisture supplies.
The USDA Crop Progress report for Wisconsin for the week ending Oct. 29, shows that topsoil moisture supplies rated 3% very short, 10% short, 71% adequate, and 16% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7% very short, 23% short, 62% adequate, and 8% surplus.