Iowa Cropland Still Dry In Mid-November

Iowa Cropland Still Dry In Mid-November

Weekly survey released Nov. 14 shows dryness persisting over much of the state. Despite snowfall last week, 61% of Iowa's topsoil is short of moisture and 70% of subsoil is short.

Harvest 2011 is nearly complete with 98% of Iowa's corn crop and nearly all of the soybeans now harvested. But the lack of reserve moisture in the soil remains a concern as farmers look ahead to the 2012 crop.

That's the main story in this week's Iowa Crops & Weather report, based on the statewide survey of conditions as of November 13, 2011. The crop condition and weather survey results, released November 14 by the Iowa Office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines, shows that despite snowfall a week ago, 61% of Iowa's topsoil remains short of moisture and 70% of the subsoil is short of moisture.

That compares to only 24% of the topsoil and 19% of the subsoil running short of moisture a year ago at this time in Iowa. A good reserve of soil moisture is credited with helping Iowa achieve an estimated 171 bushel per acre corn crop in 2011. That's the best in the nation for corn yields this year, despite a late summer heat wave and dry weather.

The complete weekly report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's website at or on USDA's site at

Iowa had 12 consecutive weeks of below-normal rainfall July-October

This year Iowa had 12 consecutive weeks of below-normal rainfall from late July into October, in contrast to unusually wet conditions that prevailed through summer and into harvest time for three consecutive years 2008, 2009 and 2010. Over half of northwest Iowa is now considered very short of both topsoil moisture and subsoil moisture, based on the survey results released November 14, 2011.

The U.S. drought monitor map maintained by USDA and the University of Nebraska now shows most of Iowa in a condition ranging from abnormally dry to severe drought. The severe drought area of Iowa ranges from about Mason City to Spencer on the north down to the Webster City/Fort Dodge area north of U.S. highway 20. Another severe drought zone is persisting in the two lowest tiers of counties north of the Missouri border and then going east to Mt. Pleasant in southeast Iowa. Currently, the only section of Iowa that is labeled as "normal moisture" is the area bounded by the Quad Cities and Dubuque along the Mississippi River extending west to Waterloo.

Farmers in Iowa saying: "We need rain to recharge soil moisture this fall"

While snow hit much of Iowa last week, northwest Iowa saw little or no precipitation, the USDA's weekly survey released November 14 points out. Over half of northwest Iowa is now considered very short of both topsoil and subsoil moisture. The dry weather in that area allowed harvest and field work to be near completion. With some equipment already put away for the winter, precipitation is now desired.

There were 5.2 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week. Days suitable varied widely across the state as some areas received heavy, wet snow while others saw none. Northwest Iowa had 6.9 days suitable while south central Iowa had only 3.4 days suitable.

Looking at the situation statewide, topsoil moisture is currently 30% very short, 31% short, 37% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture is rated 32% very short, 38% short, 29% adequate and 1% surplus.

Grain movement continues to be slow, as farmers are holding tight

Grain movement continues to slow, with just 27% of the state seeing moderate to heavy grain movement from farm to elevator. As harvest nears completion, 90% of the state reports adequate or surplus off-farm storage capacity and 85% of the state reports adequate or surplus on-farm storage capacity.

As of November 13, the survey shows 98% of the 2011 Iowa corn crop has been harvested for grain or seed, just behind 2010's 99% but over 3 weeks ahead of the normal pace. Only a few soybean fields remain to be harvested.

Hay supplies are considered adequate to surplus across 79% of Iowa with only 10% considered to be in poor condition. Livestock conditions are generally good.


By Harry Hillaker, state climatologist, Iowa Dept. of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

A strong storm system brought moderate to heavy precipitation from late Monday (Nov. 7) into mid-day Wednesday (Nov. 9) to central and southeastern Iowa. The precipitation began as rain but changed to snow Tuesday night with 2 to 6 inches of accumulation along a Bedford-Des Moines-Cedar Falls line with lesser amounts to the east. Very light rain showers were scattered across northwestern Iowa on Sunday (Nov. 13) morning. Overall, little to no precipitation fell during the week across the northwest one-quarter to one-third of the state. Nearly all of the southeast one-half of Iowa received at least an inch of precipitation with a few amounts up to three inches. The past two weeks has seen copious amounts of moisture over the southeast and little over northwestern Iowa.

Drought conditions are still persisting over northwest Iowa

Thus drought conditions persist over the northwest while the moisture situation has improved greatly over the southeast. Burlington reported the most precipitation for the past reporting week with 3.20 inches. The statewide average precipitation was 1.09 inches or double the weekly normal of 0.54 inch. This was the wettest week in eleven weeks for the state of Iowa.

Despite the mid-week snowfall temperatures were mostly above normal. The coolest conditions were from Tuesday through Thursday with highs mostly in the 40s with the warmest weather over the weekend when highs ranged from the low 50s northwest to mostly 60s southeast. Weekly extremes ranged from a Friday (Nov. 11) morning low of 19 degrees at Mason City to a Sunday (Nov. 13) afternoon high of 72 degrees at Keokuk. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 3.3 degrees above normal. Soil temperatures as of Sunday were averaging in the mid 40s statewide.

TAGS: Soybean USDA
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