, , , ,

Saturated Soil Keeps Wisconsin Farmers Out Of The Fields

Subsoil Moisture Levels More Than Doubled In The Last Week Thanks To Heavy Rain

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

More than a third of Wisconsin’s fields have excess moisture thanks to heavy rain throughout the state.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows surplus moisture in 40 percent of the state’s topsoil and 35 percent of subsoil, about twice as much as last week.

State Statistician Greg Bussler said too much moisture is an unusual problem for the first week of fall.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“Typically, August and September are drier months and this year that really isn’t the case,” Bussler said.

Last year, only 13 percent of topsoil and 6 percent of subsoil had extra moisture.

“It’s going to be difficult for farmers to get into the field without doing damage to the soil,” Bussler said. “What farmers could really use is some dry weather for the next couple weeks.”

Chris Baxter, a soil and crop science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said the surplus moisture isn’t hurting crops, but it does mean flooding is likely with even a small amount of rain.

“You can think of it like a glass being three quarters of the way full versus only a quarter of the way full,” Baxter said. “You’re not going to be able to pour as much water into it before it starts to overflow.”

Baxter said crops that aren’t in flooded areas have actually benefited from the steady rain throughout the growing season.

But as more crops are ready to harvest, farmers could be stuck waiting for subsoil to dry out before they can get into the fields.

And that drying process could take awhile.

“Because the water transmits through soil relatively slowly, it’s going to take some time for that subsoil moisture to be depleted either through downward movement or by plant uptake,” Baxter said.