Crops suffer as Iowa’s drought worsens

By: - August 8, 2022 5:24 pm

A Carroll County farmer uses supplemental water to nourish fields on Aug. 8, 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Moderate drought has gripped a substantial swath of southern Iowa, and the state’s corn and soybeans recently rated their poorest yet this year, according to a Monday report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About 73% of the state’s corn crop is rated good or excellent, down from 76% a week ago, the USDA report said. About 71% of soybeans were rated the same, down from 73% last week.

Those declines were the result of miserably warm weather: The state averaged about 5 degrees above normal last week, according to Justin Glisan, the state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Sioux City notched the hottest temperature of the week at 102 degrees on Aug. 2.

Rainfall was highly variable, with very little for central and southern Iowa, Glisan reported. Most of Dallas County had no rain last week, whereas Manchester in northeast Iowa had nearly 5 inches.

“Temperatures are looking to be warmer than average with only minor chances of rain over the coming weeks,” said Mike Naig, the state’s agriculture secretary. “With these persistent conditions, we continue to monitor drought across northwestern and southern Iowa.”

The percentage of Iowa in drought status nearly doubled in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s report late last week, from about 17% to about 31%. Much of that gain was attributable to southern Iowa, where moderate drought expanded from a preexisting pocket in far southeast Iowa to parts of far southwest Iowa.

The worst of the drought continues to plague northwest Iowa near Sioux City. Joel DeJong, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist who monitors that area, said Sioux City’s rainfall deficit since April 2021 is about 15 inches.

The stress on crops is evident, he said, because corn leaves are curling and soybean leaves are flipping during the hottest parts of the days to conserve water. That also stunts growth during crucial periods of development for the crops.

“We’re going to see some kernel abortion going on,” DeJong said of the corn.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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