Drought concerns emerge

Ag/Outdoor, News, Weather

May 30th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Warm, windy weather — and a lack of rain — are raising drought concerns in Iowa. The latest U-S-D-A report indicates about half of Iowa farm fields are short or very short of topsoil moisture. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says it’s worrysome. “Ironically northwest Iowa was probably our driest area going into spring and they’ve gotten rains,” Northey says. “But the balance of the state is really short of moisture and normally we don’t expect that dry weather until later in the season.” Dry conditions in late May and early June put a “unique kind of stress” on crops, according to Northey.

Corn, for example, is showing inadequate root growth.”When the crop is so short of moisture in that top soil, it actually is hard for those roots to find moisture and, therefore, to grow,” Northey says. “You would think normally…dry weather will cause those roots to go down and try to find moisture, but in some of our areas it’s so dry, if it’s not finding moisture, it actually stops those roots from growing.” While corn in some areas has weak root systems, some soybeans are just sitting in the ground and haven’t sprouted. “We do plant soybeans shallower. We plant them later and if you do a little bit of tillage, it dries out the top, especially since some of our areas of the state haven’t had rain for three weeks or at least any sizable rain and some very dry weather in the last three or four weeks as well.” The other problem is the soybean sprouts, but then dies because of lack of moisture.

Fifty-one percent of Iowa farm fields are “short” or “very short” of topsoil moisture according to the latest U-S-D-A report. The rating for subsoil moisture is 42 percent “short” or “very short.” The driest section of the state is south central Iowa, where 83 percent of the topsoil is “short” or “very short” of moisture.

Link to the U-S Drought Monitor website: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)