An early growing season led many Wisconsin hay growers to dream of an extra cutting. But June’s below-normal rainfall ended such musings for those in the southern part of the state, says Bill Bland, University of Wisconsin-Extension ag climatologist. He’s concerned that a drought nears.

“The southern tier of counties is presently short of rainfall by at least 2”, a serious deficit coming on the heels of the exceptionally early start to the growing season,” says Bland.

Southern Wisconsin is on track for a new record of least amount of rainfall in June, with only 0.31” recorded in Madison at the Dane County Regional Airport. The previous record-low rainfall in June was in 1973 with 0.81” recorded. July and August of that year received only 63% of normal rainfall.

July typically brings 4” of rain, but crops and landscapes in full swing need every drop of this to meet their water needs, he cautions. Seasonal outlooks issued June 21 by the National Weather Service suggest that a warmer-than-average summer is likely because of low soil moisture over so much of the central U.S. However, these forecasters left the chances of precipitation at just the usual roll of the dice.

“It is never possible to pinpoint just when a long dry spell becomes a damaging drought, but southern Wisconsin will be in the grips of one without at least a couple of inches of rainfall by mid-July,” says Bland.