Red Flag Warning Issued For Field Fires

Red Flag Warning Issued For Field Fires

The National Weather Service this morning issued a red flag warning for fire danger in 19 western Iowa counties. Farmers warned to be careful as risk of field fires rises greatly in dry, windy conditions.

Dry weather, wind gusts and unseasonably warm temperatures prompted the National Weather Service to issue a "red flag" warning for fire danger in 19 counties in western Iowa on October 4, 2011. While that area of the state is especially dry and windy, farmers throughout Iowa are warned to be careful while operating harvesting machinery and grain trucks in fields.

"Any small spark can cause a fire," says Kyle Weisser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Dangerous conditions are likely to spread across the state to central and eastern Iowa on Wednesday and Thursday too.

The "red flag" warning is in effect from 12 noon on Tuesday October 4 until 7 p.m. Wednesday October 5, as the dry and warmer than normal temperatures are expected to continue. South to southeast winds are likely to increase to 15 to 30 mph. Fires could become dangerous and fast-moving.

Law officials in some areas ask farmers to temporarily cease harvesting

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. Strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures create explosive fire potential. Dry, windy weather has resulted in numerous field fires this past week. Law enforcement officials in some areas of Iowa have asked farmers to temporarily cease harvesting due to the elevated risk of fires.

As moisture levels continue to drop, more farmers are harvesting corn, but the primary harvest focus has been on soybeans this past week. That's according to the weekly weather and crop conditions report released October 3, 2011 by the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines. These latest weekly statewide survey results are based on conditions as of Sunday October 2, notes Greg Thessen, director of the NASS office in Iowa.

While the dry, windy weather helps corn dry down in the field, "One unfortunate risk of dry weather conditions and high winds is an increased risk of fire. Farmers should take extra care as the dry weather continues," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "If the weather conditions we experienced today continue, we should see significant harvest progress across the state this week."

Farmers making significant harvest progress on 2011 corn and soybeans

As of October 2, farmers had harvested 12% of Iowa's corn crop, behind 2010's 18% but ahead of the 5-year average of 10%. Moisture content of the corn crop left to harvest throughout the state dropped 3% from the previous week--to an average of 24% as of October 2, with the corn currently being harvested running 21% moisture content. Corn lodging remains a greater problem than last year, with 16% of Iowa's corn crop currently experiencing moderate to heavy lodging compared to 5% at this time last year.

Looking at soybeans, the weekly survey shows 21% of Iowa's 2011 soybean crop had been harvested as of October 2, behind last year's 34% and the normal 30%. Soybean lodging is slightly worse than last year, but shattering levels are nearly identical to last year at this time, according to the weekly survey.

The complete weekly crop and weather report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's site www.IowaAgriculture.gov or on USDA's website at www.nass.usda.gov/ia.  Here's a summary:

Iowa Crop Conditions as of Oct. 2, 2011

                                   This Week                Last Week

                   Fair       Good      Excellent        Excellent

Corn           27%        45%          13%               12%

Soybeans   23%        48%          17%               15%

Average temperature for Iowa for the week ending October 2, 2011 was 1.1 degrees F below normal. Statewide average rainfall was 0.29 inch last week; normal for the week is 0.68 inches of rainfall.

12% of Iowa's 2011 corn crop has been harvested as of October 2

There were 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week. Topsoil moisture levels rated 22% very short, 36% short, 41% adequate and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 18% very short, 36% short, 45% adequate, and 1% surplus. With row crop harvest beginning to hit its stride, 28% of the state is seeing moderate to heavy grain movement from farm to elevator.

Looking at maturity, 91% of Iowa's corn crop is now mature, 6 days behind last year but one week ahead of normal. Also as of October 2, about 12% of the corn crop has been harvested for grain or seed, behind 2010's 18% but ahead of the 10% five-year average. The moisture content of the corn left to be harvested throughout the state dropped 3% from previous week to an average of 24% now, with the corn currently being harvested running at 21% moisture content.

Corn lodging and ear drop are rated "moderate to heavy" this year

Corn lodging remains a greater problem than last year, with 16% of Iowa's corn crop experiencing moderate to heavy lodging compared to 5% at this time last year. Also, 8% of the corn crop is experiencing moderate to heavy ear droppage compared to 4% in 2010. Corn condition stands at 5% very poor, 10% poor, 27% fair, 45% good and 13% excellent.

For soybeans on October 2, the survey showed 98% of Iowa's 2011 soybean crop has turned color, equal to both last year and the 5-year average. Also, 82% of Iowa's soybean fields are dropping leaves, but development still lags 3 days behind last year and normal. Just 21% of the beans have been harvested as of October 2, behind last year's 34% and the normal 30%. Soybean lodging is slightly worse than the previous year, but shattering levels are nearly identical to last year at this time. The overall condition of Iowa's 2011 soybean crop now stands at 4% very poor, 8% poor, 23% fair, 48% good and 17% excellent.

Pasture and range condition is rated 13% very poor, 22% poor, 37% fair, 24% good and 4% excellent. Also, as of Oct. 2, Iowa livestock conditions continue to be good with only a few insect issues reported.

 

IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—for week ending Oct. 2, 2011

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

Mostly dry weather with highly variable temperatures prevailed over the past reporting week. A slow moving storm system centered over the Great Lakes brought occasional showers to eastern Iowa from late Sunday (Sept. 25) into Thursday (Sept. 29). A few areas of northeast and east central Iowa received more than one inch of rain, with most of it falling on Monday. Greatest totals were 1.66 inches at Waukon and 1.61 inches at Davenport. No rain fell across the western one-half of the state. The statewide average precipitation was 0.29 inch while normal for the week is 0.68 inch.

For 9 of last 10 weeks Iowa has received below normal precipitation

This was the ninth week of the past 10 to bring below normal precipitation. The dry weather has been great for drying down the corn and soybean crop and facilitating harvest but pastures statewide are seeing minimal growth. Very dry air has been dominating the state allowing wide swings in temperature from unseasonably cool nights to occasionally very warm days.

Daytime highs reached into the 80s over all of western Iowa on Wednesday (Sept. 28) and in a few areas on Tuesday (Sept. 27) and Sunday (Oct. 2). Meanwhile, freezes were reported in some areas on Friday (Sept. 30), Saturday (Oct. 1) and Sunday (Oct. 2) mornings. Temperature extremes for the week varied from Wednesday afternoon highs of 88 degrees at Little Sioux, Onawa and Sioux City to Saturday morning lows of 26 degrees at Battle Creek and Mason City. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 1.1 degrees below normal. Finally, high winds on Thursday September 29 allowed the rapid spread of field fires in many areas, especially over northern Iowa. Mason City reported the highest wind with gusts up to 59 mph.

TAGS: USDA
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