Short on rain, Wisconsin slides back into drought

  • Associated Press
  • September 4, 2013 - 10:40 AM

MADISON, Wis. — Parts of Wisconsin have slid back into drought after two months of little rain, and farmers who once expected near record corn and soybean harvests are likely to have only average years.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports ( ) that the western part of the state is already in a drought, and the National Weather Service could classify parts of southern Wisconsin in a drought this week.

Monroe, which is near the Illinois border about 50 miles southwest of Madison, had just 3.1 inches of rain in July and August, when it would typically get about 5.5 inches, according to the weather service. Other parts of southern and western Wisconsin were similarly short on rain.

That will likely cut the corn and soybean crops by 10 to 15 percent, said Stan McGraw, an agronomist for Madison-based cattle feed company Vita Plus. Experts had predicted near record harvests this spring, when cool, wet weather got the plants off to a good start. But with little rain as the summer progressed, corn kernels remain small, and some bean plants have dropped their pods and started to die.

"We've gone from a phenomenal crop to an average crop," McGraw said.

Mark Mayer, the agriculture agent for UW-Extension's Green County office, said some farmers in his area would be doing well to get an average crop. He watched corn wilt last week in near 100-degree temperatures.

"The corn started looking like it did last year, only it was taller," Mayer said.

He predicted this year's yield will be better than last year's 77 bushels per acre but less than the annual average of about 160 bushels an acre. Last year's yield was hurt by a severe drought that dried out much of the United States.

The weather isn't expected to improve soon, with little rain and higher-than-average temperatures in the forecast, according to Sarah Marquardt, a meteorologist for the Weather Service's Sullivan office.

But even if a decent rain came now, McGraw said it would be too late to help many farmers.

"Theoretically, the damage has already been done," he said. "It will help the alfalfa and pastures and it will help re-charge the moisture."

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