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Tractor planting corn

While a cold and snowy April is expected to push back the start of the planting season for parts of Wisconsin, Madison area farmers are still hoping to start planting on schedule around the first week of May.

A cold April punctuated by a freakish weekend snowstorm may push back the start of the planting season for much of the state, but Madison-area farmers are still hoping to plant corn and soybeans around the optimal planting period, according to a UW Extension Dane County agriculture agent.

Area farmers are “still within range” of planting corn around May 1 and soybeans around May 6 despite a thin layer of snow covering the ground, said Heidi Johnson, crops and soils specialist for the UW-Extension’s Dane County office.

But Johnson included this caveat: “We just need it to warm up someday soon, and it needs to dry out.”

It’s much worse in the northern two-thirds of the state where 2 feet of snow fell in some areas. That led to reports of barn roofs collapsing from Chippewa County in the western part of the state to Kewaunee and Door counties in the east. “We’re running along here (like it’s) a normal January,” said John Every, the general manager of the Clark County office of Vita Plus, a Madison-based livestock feed company.

The Loyal area where the Vita Plus office is located in the central part of the state also got about 2 feet of snow, according to Every. “It will take at least a week to clear it out of here. We’re heading into a late-spring planting season,” Every said.

Areas north of Loyal were already snow-covered before the weekend storm, and much of the rest of the state still has frost in the ground, according to reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Crops that are dormant over the winter like alfalfa and winter wheat are still dormant in those areas. In the Madison area, they are coming out of dormancy and most fields are in good condition, Johnson said.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.