Two weeks ago, the 2014 cropping season looked like the best start for Iowa corn and soybeans in many years. Unfortunately, since then in some of the areas of the state, the weatherman turned the faucet on and hasn't turned it off yet. The rain has kept coming; some of it falling in deluges in certain areas this past week.
"Overall, looking at Iowa as a whole here on June 23, the state's crop prospects for 2014 still look good," says Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Northey farms near Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa. "Looking at my own crop, I planted it this spring in the driest conditions I've ever planted in. I had no wet spots at all. Now I have one field where there's 30 acres that are downed out. We have too much water, and it's even worse in the area of the state that is west of our farm's location at Spirit Lake."
Storms damaged thousands of crop acres in northwest Iowa
Northey drove from Des Moines to Spirit Lake on Sunday June 22. "I saw a lot of the crop underwater between Des Moines and Fort Dodge and on to Spirit Lake," he says. "But in between those flooded fields, there are many, many acres of good-looking crops. The corn and bean fields are clean and ready to keep growing."
Farmers in those areas with the good-looking crops were able to get the work done in between showers, and those fields got the weeds sprayed and the nitrogen side-dressed. "Other than the handful of spots in Iowa where fields have really been drenched during the past week or two," says Northey, "I think the situation looks very good in Iowa right now as far as crop prospects are concerned for this year."
The weekly USDA crop and weather survey report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's website or on USDA's site. The report summary follows here:
Frequent rain has raised soil moisture levels in Iowa
CROP REPORT: Frequent rain halted fieldwork in Iowa during the week ending June 22, 2014, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Temperatures were above normal for the week, while severe storms brought high winds and hail to the State. Statewide there were only 2.0 days suitable for fieldwork.
Recent rain has raised soil moisture levels. Topsoil moisture levels rated zero percent very short, 4% short, 68% adequate and 28% surplus as of June 22. Subsoil moisture levels rated 1% very short, 12% short, 71% adequate and 16% surplus. Northwest Iowa was the wettest with over 40% of the topsoil in surplus condition.
Corn condition rates 79% good to excellent, soybeans are 76%
Corn condition statewide rated 1% very poor, 4% poor, 16% fair, 58% good and 21% excellent as of June 22. With almost all of Iowa's soybean acreage emerged, bean condition rated 1% very poor, 5% poor, 18% fair, 58% good and 18% excellent. There were isolated reports of soybeans blooming across Iowa. And 71% of the oat crop has headed, 8 percentage points above last year but 4 percentage points behind the 5-year average. A few farmers reported seeing oats starting to turn color. Oat condition rated zero percent very poor, 2% poor, 25% fair, 61% good and 12% excellent.
The first cutting of alfalfa hay was 84% complete, well ahead of last year's 66% and 8 percentage points above average. Hay condition was rated zero percent very poor, 4% poor, 25% fair, 54% good and 17% excellent. Pasture condition rated 1% very poor, 4% poor, 24% fair, 52% good and 19% excellent. Stress on livestock increased this week because of the heat and flooding.
IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—for week ending June 22, 2014
By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship
It was a warm and very wet week across Iowa. The most widespread rain came on Monday (June 16) into Tuesday (June 17) morning when nearly all of the northern one-half of the state received more than two inches of rain. Greatest rain totals with this first event were reported at Peterson (Clay County) with 5.14 inches and Lester (Lyon County) with 4.87 inches. Another event brought rain to the northern one-third of Iowa on Wednesday (June 18) morning with a few locations receiving over two inches. Yet another complex of thunderstorms moved across extreme northeast Iowa on Wednesday night bringing 4.52 inches of rain to Dubuque.
Statewide average rainfall was three times weekly normal
Rain fell statewide Thursday (June 19) with greatest amounts locally exceeding three inches, falling across the east one-half of Iowa. The rain focus shifted to western Iowa over the weekend with heavy rain Friday (June 20) night across the southwest where 4.27 inches of rain fell just south of Council Bluffs. Finally, a few far western areas received an inch or two of rain on Saturday (June 21) night. Only a few small areas across south central and southeast Iowa recorded below normal rainfall for the week. Weekly rain totals varied from 0.17 inches at Centerville to 8.08 inches at Hampton.
The statewide average precipitation was 3.66 inches or three times the weekly normal of 1.17 inches. This was the greatest weekly average since early June 2008. Meanwhile temperatures were above normal throughout the week. Temperature extremes varied from Monday (June 16) morning lows of 51 degrees at Swea City and Tripoli to a Friday (June 20 afternoon high of 94 degrees at Sidney. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 3.3 degrees above normal.
Northwest Iowa struggles with crop damage, replanting
Storms the past week have damaged thousands of crop acres in northwest Iowa, leaving farmers uncertain whether they'll be able to replant. "I don't ever remember seeing this much standing water," says Joel DeJong, Iowa State University field agronomist in northwest Iowa. "There's a lot of standing water."
Hail and wind also damaged Iowa corn and soybeans. And farmers on the western state border have rising river waters. Some areas of western Iowa had 18 inches of rain within a week. "If you're in those areas, it's pretty devastating," says DeJong. Between hail and flooding, there are thousands and thousands of acres" damaged, he notes.
Farmers consider several things in making replant decision
Farmers will assess over the coming days whether crops can be replanted, as it is getting late. It's probably too late for most farmers to replant corn—unless it will be used to feed cattle—but they may be able to replant soybeans. "There are several things they'll be weighing," says DeJong. "First, many have to wait for water to recede."
Even though northern Iowa is struggling, the damaged portion of the crop is a small part of Iowa's overall acres. "As I look around the state, I see some good crops. Mine aren't good, and I know there are some that are worse," Northey says. Altogether, Iowa has nearly 24 million acres in corn and soybeans. "Overall, the flooded field areas probably are not enough to impact the state's overall average yields of corn and soybeans very much," he adds.