Continuing dry conditions are starting to erase predictions of a bumper crop this year, which was expected to replenish tight supplies of corn and soybeans and lead to lower grain prices. Some farmers report their crops are showing signs of stress.
About two-thirds of Iowa's fields are currently rated short of moisture by the government's weekly crop and weather conditions survey. Results of the statewide survey were released June 11 by the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines. More rain is needed as only 67% of Iowa's corn rates "good to excellent," down from 75% in last week's survey, notes Greg Thessen, director of the Iowa NASS office, which analyzes the survey results and compiles the weekly report. Iowa's 2012 corn crop was rated 81% "good to excellent" two weeks ago.
Some rain fell late Sunday and early Monday in many areas of the state, but it wasn't much, just traces in many places and is likely to do little good without more rain soon. State climatologist Harry Hillaker with the Iowa Department of Agriculture says the rain of Sunday and Monday put Iowa at .78 inches of rain for June so far, below the 1.84 inches that are normal for the first 11 days of the month.
Will Iowa's recent string of wet summers give way to dry summer in 2012?
Hillaker says when conditions are warm and dry like they have been in recent weeks, moisture normally evaporates at the rate of .20 inch per day. So for most of the state, the rain that came Sunday night and early Monday will be gone in a few days.
Southwest Iowa fared best in the storm this past Sunday night and early Monday morning, with Red Oak receiving 3.12 inches and Underwood getting 2.9 inches. Waterloo also had a strong localized storm with 1.58 inches. Elsewhere, rainfall was a lot less. The Sioux City area didn't receive any rain, neither did Fort Madison. Mason City received only .06 inch and Fairfield .02 inches. Storm Lake got .38 inches, Fort Dodge .40 inches, Charles City .14 inches, Dubuque .50 inches, Quad Cities .12 inches, Cedar Rapids .06 inches. Des Moines received .12 inches, which climatologist Hillaker says was typical for most of central Iowa.
Iowa's rainfall deficit comes after a May in which the state received only half as much rain as normal, prompting fears that Iowa's recent run of wet summers will give way to a dry summer in 2012. Farmers say it's still early and the crop can recover, but rainfall is vital before the critical pollination period occurs for corn. That usually takes place in the first half of July.
Warm, dry conditions are beginning to stress Iowa corn and soybeans
"Much of the area I cover is still quite dry," says Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist at Spencer in northwest Iowa. "Some soybean fields are struggling because of the dry weather. There is some soybean seed in the soil that hasn't germinated. Other fields look very good considering the dry conditions that have persisted since mid-May. A farmer near Pocahontas recently told me he had received only a half inch of rain since he planted his soybean crop May 15."
Farmer Gary Walters in Hardin County in central Iowa says he's began to notice signs of stressed corn—the leaves rolling up—this past weekend. In eastern Iowa, Linn County farmer Gary Edwards near Anamosa, says "my ground is about as dry as I can ever remember it." Like many farmers in dry areas, he's had some so-called "rootless corn" this year, which happens in dry soils.
Farmers say crops can get by now, but more rain is needed soon
"The lack of significant rainfall for much of the state remains a concern," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "In general the crop remains in fairly good condition but will need more moisture as it continues to develop."
The weekly Iowa Crop & Weather Report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture site at www.IowaAgriculture.gov and on USDA's site at www.nass.usda.gov/ia. Here's a summary of the report released June 11, based on statewide survey as of June 10:
CROP REPORT: Warm, dry conditions starting to stress Iowa crops
Warm, dry conditions are beginning to stress Iowa row crops. Although crops continue to be rated mostly good to excellent, crop conditions declined slightly for the third straight week, according to the weekly USDA survey released June 11. The week's activities included spraying crops and cutting hay, with some farmers starting their second cutting.
There were 6.7 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending June 10, compared to 5.2 days the previous week. Topsoil moisture levels dropped to 26% very short, 40% short, 34% adequate and zero percent surplus. South Central Iowa is the driest with 97% of the topsoil moisture rated short to very short. Subsoil moisture also decreased and is now rated 20% very short, 39% short, 41% adequate and zero percent surplus.
Some fields of corn in eastern Iowa are already starting to silk
There are scattered reports of corn silking, primarily in the eastern part of the state. Corn condition is reported at 2% very poor, 6% poor, 25% fair, 52% good and 15% excellent. Looking at soybeans 94% of the Iowa bean crop has emerged, ahead of last year's 88% and the 5-year average of 84%. Soybean condition is rated 2% very poor, 8% poor, 28% fair, 52% good, 10% excellent.
As for the progress of Iowa's 2012 oat crop, 86% of the oat crop has headed, and that's almost 3 weeks ahead of normal. Oat condition is rated 2% very poor, 5% poor, 27% fair, 54% good and 12% excellent. The first cutting of alfalfa hay, at 97% complete, is well ahead of last year's 56% and 5-year average of 46%. The second cutting of alfalfa hay is underway in each district of the state. Hay condition is rated 3% very poor, 8% poor, 29% fair, 51% good and 9% excellent.
For the first time this year, less than half of Iowa's pasture and range land is rated good to excellent. Pasture and range condition is currently rated 5% very poor, 14% poor, 36% fair, 40% good and 5% excellent. The warmer weather caused little if any stress to livestock as no issues were reported for the week ending June 10.
IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—as of week ending June 10, 2012
By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship
It was a warm and dry week across Iowa, for the week ending June 10. Temperatures averaged from near normal over far southeast Iowa to 6 to 8 degrees above normal across the west. The statewide average temperature was 4.4 degrees above normal which at this time of year results in about 15% to 20% more evaporation than normal. The mildest weather came on Wednesday and Thursday with Elkader reporting the lowest temperature at 45 degrees on Thursday morning. Highest temperatures came on the weekend with Dakota City reaching 93 degrees on Saturday (June 9) and Des Moines, Guthrie Center and Red Oak also reaching 93 on Sunday (June 10).
Rainfall was minimal with just a few scattered thunderstorms across the northeast one-third of Iowa on Sunday (June 3) night into Monday (June 4). Isolated storms dropped rain on a few areas in central Iowa on Tuesday and from northwest into central Iowa on Thursday. Many areas, especially in the southwest and south, reported no rain for the week while Lake Park reported the most with 0.86 inch. The statewide average precipitation was 0.07 inch while normal for the week is 1.19 inches.
The week ending June 10 was Iowa's driest week in 17 weeks
This was Iowa's driest week in 17 weeks (since early February). Thunderstorms brought welcome rain to all but extreme northwest Iowa Sunday (June 10) afternoon into Monday (June 11) morning. However, this rain came too late to be reflected in the crop condition and soil moisture reports and the rain totals for various locations in Iowa will be included in next week's Iowa Crops & Weather summary. The late weekend rain of June 10 and 11 averaged about one-half inch statewide—although many areas got less than that and a few didn't receive anything. On the other hand, substantial rains of an inch or more from Sunday night to Monday morning were mostly across western Iowa, roughly bounded by Spencer, Creston, Shenandoah and Council Bluffs.