Unseasonably wet, cold weather leaves area farmers wondering when they can begin annual ritual
If it were an ideal spring, farmers would have roughly 10% of their corn planted by now, Ozaukee County Agriculture Agent Dan O’Neil said Tuesday.
“If you could pick one day a year to plant your whole corn crop, it would be May 1,” O’Neil said.
The soil temperature would be warm enough for planting, and the growing season would be just right for a maximum yield.
But this spring is anything but ideal, O’Neil said.
“I would expect that by May 1 we’ll be at zero corn planted,” he said.
“Normally, this is a time when we would probably have 50% of the spring grains planted. Most of the alfalfa would be planted, and 10% of the corn. We sure won’t be there this spring.”
Credit the cold, rainy, miserable spring we’ve had so far.
It’s left the vast majority of people with a bad case of spring fever, waiting for warm weather.
It’s left high school sports teams postponing event after event, with the prospect of a stacked schedule when the weather warms.
And it’s left farmers waiting.
“Pretty much everything’s on hold,” O’Neil said. “Just about nothing’s been done. If it was cold and dry enough, people would still get some spring crops in, but that just hasn’t happened. And it looks like we’re going to be waiting another week or more.”
Jim Melichar said he’s been busy at his Town of Port Washington farm — but not with crops.
He’s building a new milking parlor, a project started in October but 90 days behind schedule because of winter weather.
“This whole winter was so crazy,” Melichar said. “The crops, we haven’t done anything. We’re going to be behind.”
But, he noted, the situation was similar last year, when it rained until mid-June.
“We didn’t plant corn until June 20,” Melichar said. “We still survived.
“After last year, we’re still optimistic about this year.”
Farmers don’t tend to get nervous about planting until May 10 has come and gone, Melichar said.
“But every year is different,” he said. “The one thing we can’t change is weather. It is what it is.”
Melichar said he believed the wet spring is a cyclical event.
“You used to hear the old guys telling you how bad it was in the ’20s and ’30s,” he said. “I remember this as a teenager taking the tractor out to plant alfalfa and it started raining in the middle of it. The tractor stopped, and it sat there for two weeks before we could get about again.”
The extended forecast doesn’t call for the weather to break until mid-May, Melichar noted.
“You just have to keep yourself busy, and when it’s ready, you have to be ready to go,” he said.
“It’s all about getting things ready now so when we get that week or 10 days break in the weather, you’re ready to go,” he said. “When it’s time, when the conditions get acceptable for planting, everything has to get done at once.
“Things can turn around in a real hurry.”