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Rankin column: Extreme temps affect fall harvest

1:20 PM, Oct. 25, 2013  |  Comments
Mike Rankin
Mike Rankin
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Let's begin with the weather - a favorite topic whenever two or more farmers gather. The 2013 growing season officially came to an end on Oct. 22 as temperatures dipped below 30 degrees in most areas. This was 10 days later than last year, one day earlier than 2011, and a full week earlier than 2010.

I've been tracking fall frost dates since 1997. Over the past 17 years, our average killing frost date has been Oct. 14. Official 30-year average frost dates are reported to be around Oct. 11. Use whatever figures you'd like, the bottom line is that our growing season averages at least a week to 10 days longer than it did back in the mid-1900's.

It looks like we'll finish the growing season (April-October) with just under the average amount of growing degree units (GDU), but it's been a wild ride with both cool and hot extremes. September was the only month that was above average for GDU's in 2013, while every other month was to some degree below normal.

Following a hot third week of July we clawed our way back to within 37 GDU's of normal but lost momentum during the fourth week with exceptionally cool weather. A warm September and early October brought us to within 17 GDU's of normal, but again cooled-off the latter half of October.

From a precipitation standpoint, we'll finish the season a couple of inches above normal. April, May and June were all well above normal and totaled over 15 inches of rain, while July through October was below normal for each month.

Wisconsin small grains

The shutting down of the federal government eliminated the October crop report from USDA, but we did recently get final numbers for 2013 small grains. Wisconsin winter wheat production was 15.4 million bushels, down 16 percent from 2012. Average yield in the state was 58 bushels per acre, down a whopping 17 bushels from last year and our lowest yield since 2005. A total of 265 thousand acres were harvested, up 20 thousand from 2012.

Oat production in Wisconsin was 6.83 million bushels, down 12 percent from 2012. This was the lowest production since record keeping began in 1866. Average oat yield in 2013 was 65.0 bushels per acre, up five bushels from 2012.

Good potash news

In case you haven't noticed, potash prices have recently come down significantly. A major Russian producer of potash jumped the cartel ship; this makes it much more difficult to control prices by limiting production. How long it will last remains to be seen, but this is at least good short-term (or more) news for farmers. Potassium deficiency in crops has become more common in recent years and statewide soil test averages are heading downward.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
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856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
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1015 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

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