Winter may finally be over, but its effects are lingering for a key agricultural sector in Wisconsin. “This is probably the worst year for winterkill we have had in over 20 years.” That’s how University of Wisconsin Extension forage agronomist Dan Undersander describes the alfalfa crop, not only in Wisconsin but across the upper Midwest.
Undersander said the southern edge of the damage area is in southern Wisconsin, where 20 to 30 percent of the fields are showing damage, up to 80 percent loss in Central Wisconsin. The area extends from Ontario to the Dakotas.
A combination of factors have contributed to the loss, according to Undersander. A lot of the crop went dormant last fall without storing up nutrients, and then the late spring was just too much to withstand. There is also a lot of evidence of winterkill especially in low spots in fields.
The situation has created a “worst-case” scenario for dairy farmers who are already running out of forage and facing a hay shortage across the upper Midwest. In response, the UW Extension has established a website of multiple materials addressing all aspects of the situation.