snowy field in Altoona, Iowa
SPRING IN IOWA: This field near Altoona in central Iowa had several inches of snow April 16, and no corn planted. A year ago, corn was in the ground.

Iowa corn planting progress frozen

Mid-April’s snow and low temps set records in Iowa.

If April showers bring May flowers, what does snow in mid-April bring? A continued delay in spring fieldwork, no corn plantings and blustery, cold temperatures. On April 15, temperatures in Des Moines were half of the normal 60-degree average for mid-April. Northern and central Iowa received as much as a foot of snow over the weekend.

Iowa farmers had only 1.3 days suitable for fieldwork last week, according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service office in Des Moines. NASS conducts its weekly statewide survey and releases the information in its Iowa Crop Progress & Weather Report every Monday afternoon. How far south did you have to go on April 16 to find soil temperatures at least 45 degrees F at planting depth? Would you believe — Southern Illinois?

No field work yet
Bone-chilling winds in Iowa, accompanying the winter storm that started the night of April 13, led to temperatures in Des Moines, Waterloo, Ottumwa and Mason City breaking records for coldest lows and coldest highs on April 15. Waterloo experienced it’s coldest low and coldest high in more than 100 years as the 28-degree day broke the record of 37 degrees set in 1949. Mason City reached only 27 degrees April 15.

“An eventful weather week brought severe weather and significant snowfall to the state and continues to keep farmers from spring fieldwork,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “This weather is also challenging for livestock farmers caring for new calves and anticipating spring pasture growth. We are starting to see cover crops green up and will see more if we get some warmer temperatures and sunshine.”

The complete weekly report is available on the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship site or on USDA’s The report summary follows.

Crop report
As cold, wet weather persisted yet another week, statewide Iowa farmers had only 1.3 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending April 15. When conditions allowed last week, a few farmers in the southern two-thirds of Iowa were busy applying fertilizer and seeding oats, with isolated reports of tillage.

Topsoil moisture levels for the state rated 1% very short, 7% short, 70% adequate and 22% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 3% very short, 12% short, 74% adequate and 11% surplus. Recent heavy snow and rain have left northern Iowa with surplus soil moisture.

Oats 10 days behind average
Iowa’s 2018 expected oat crop is now 12% planted, nine days behind last year and 10 days behind the five-year average. While one-quarter of the oats have been planted in east-central and southwest Iowa, northwest and north-central Iowa have yet to get planting underway.

Livestock producers continue to experience challenges with snowfall and below-normal temperatures stalling spring pasture growth and making tending to calves difficult throughout much of the state.

Weather summary
According to Michael Timlin, regional climatologist, Midwestern Regional Climate Center, temperatures were below normal across the state, with readings more below normal farther to the north.

Precipitation was well above normal along the northern border and below normal along the southern border. Temperatures ranged from about 3 degrees cooler than normal in the south to as much as 12 degrees cooler than normal in the north.

Freezing temperatures were recorded statewide in the first couple days of the week and then again for all but the southeast counties on the morning of the April 15.

Minimum temperatures were above freezing April 12-14 for much of the state. Warm daytime temperatures pushed into the southern half of the state with a handful of 80 degree readings in southwest Iowa. Warmest reading was 85 degrees on April 14 in Sidney. Coldest readings of the week were in northeast Iowa on April 9 when Waukon fell to 4 degrees and Cresco fell to 8 degrees. Many northern Iowa stations recorded lows in the teens and below freezing highs during the week.

Spirit Lake with 20 inches of snow
Soil temperatures in the south climbed above 40 degrees but remained near freezing in the northwest. Precipitation totals ranged up to 3.91 inches in Spirit Lake and topped 3 inches at a handful of northern stations. Along the western and southern borders of the state, precipitation totals of less than a quarter inch were reported at multiple stations.

Snow also was reported statewide, with totals exceeding a foot at some stations in northwest and north-central parts of the state. Spirit Lake reported 20.1 inches in the seven-day period. Storms on the April 13 brought large hail and strong winds to Iowa. Hail reports up to 2 inches in diameter, and wind damage reports to buildings and vehicles stretched between the southwest and northeast corners of the state.

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