Crop conditions slightly improve with continued rains

By: - August 29, 2022 5:07 pm

Corn and soybeans near Lake City in August. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A week of rainfall for Iowa that averaged close to what is typically expected this time of year held crop conditions steady, with a slight increase in quality of the soybean crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A Monday report by the USDA said that 66% of the state’s corn is rated good or excellent, unchanged from a week ago. Soybeans were 63% good or excellent, an increase of 1 percentage point.

“Several rounds of showers and thunderstorms continued to bring beneficial rains to locations that have missed out on summer rainfall,” said Mike Naig, the state’s agriculture secretary.

The widest areas with heavy rainfall were in central Iowa — where a large area is abnormally dry or suffering from moderate drought — and in northeast Iowa, which has had ample moisture throughout the year, according to data aggregated by State Climatologist Justin Glisan.

The driest part of the state near Sioux City had mere tenths of an inch last week. A large swath of southeast Iowa — where drought conditions have been worsening for weeks — had little to no rain.

Parts of southwest Iowa that have been relatively arid this summer had some heavy rain this past weekend, but it was confined to smaller areas compared with what fell in central Iowa.

For example: Almost the entirety of a three-county-wide area in central Iowa — including Grundy, Hardin and Hamilton — had at least two inches of rain.

But in Atlantic in southwest Iowa: “I maybe got an inch in town, and west of Atlantic, I got two-tenths,” said Aaron Saeugling, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist who monitors that corner of the state.

“Some of these pockets cannot get anything more than two-tenths of rain,” he said. “They are looking kind of rough.”

The state as a whole averaged just shy of an inch of rain last week. Glisan noted a high of 3.5 inches in Story City, and the National Weather Service reported new rainfall near Gilbert this past weekend that neared 4 inches.

It’s unclear yet how the new rainfall will affect the state’s drought conditions. A new weekly report from the U.S. Drought Monitor is due on Thursday.

Its last report noted only a slight improvement after a week of similar average rainfall that was more evenly divided across the state. And that week — from Aug. 15 to 21 — was also about 3 degrees cooler, on average, which helps soil retain more moisture.

“I don’t want to be too negative,” Saeugling said. “The rainfall is great. Every little bit helps. But when you’re in super dry rain events, you really need 1.5 or 2 inches to get a full soil profile.”

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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.