Lack of rain affecting Iowa topsoil moisture, crop development

Corn development about 10 days behind normal

George Ford
Published: July 23 2013 | 11:00 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 6:06 pm in
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Iowa's corn and soybean crops are trying to play catch up after a delayed planting season, but a lack of timely rainfall is not helping as topsoil moisture levels continue to decline.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service on Monday reported 35 percent of the corn crop has tasseled, well behind last year’s 95 percent and the five-year average of 70 percent. Eighteen percent of the corn crop was silking, lagging behind last year’s 87 percent and the normal 54 percent.

Overall, corn development was about 10 days behind normal. Corn condition was rated 4 percent very poor, 10 percent poor, 31 percent fair, 43 percent good and 12 percent excellent.

Thirty-six percent of the soybean crop was blooming, behind last year’s 83 percent and the five-year average of 70 percent. Scattered reports of soybeans setting pods were received.

Soybean condition was rated 3 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 43 percent good and 13 percent excellent.

Statewide, 43 percent of topsoil was in the adequate and surplus categories, a decline of 22 percentage points from the previous week. Topsoil moisture levels rated 14 percent very short, 43 percent short, 42 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.

A total of 66 percent of subsoil was in the adequate and surplus categories, down 18 percentage points from last week. Subsoil moisture levels rated 4 percent very short, 30 percent short, 63 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus.

While some rain fell Monday night in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor, KCRG-TV9 Meteorologist Kaj O'Mara said it lacked the necessary duration and likely did not improve topsoil or subsoil moisture levels.

"We need about an inch of rain per week through September to get through the tasseling process," O'Mara said. "The record wet spring was nice in a way, but it caused the roots to be nice and shallow. Now, the roots are having to dig to find water with the dried out topsoil."

O'Mara said Iowa's average rainfall for the month of July is 4 inches and Eastern Iowa has received 1.28 inches so far. Central Iowa is much worse with only 0.66 inches of rainfall recorded this month.

"With only one chance for rain between now and July 31, which probably won't amount to much, we could easily have 30 percent of our average rain for the month," O'Mara said. "The August rainfall average is about 4 inches, but the monthly average starts to wane in September with only 3.25 inches. You're also going to be getting close to the start of the harvest in October."

The second cutting of alfalfa was 52 percent complete as of Sunday, behind the five-year average of 66 percent. Hay condition was rated at 1 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 30 percent fair, 50 percent good and 12 percent excellent.

The USDA said pasture condition continued to deteriorate and was rated 3 percent very poor, 11 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 41 percent good and 10 percent excellent.

Hay prices at Eastern Iowa auctions have begun to moderate after topping $400 a ton earlier this year.

Dyersville Sales reported a top price of $270 per ton for big square bales at Wednesday's auction. Large rounds topped at $180 per ton and demand was very good with a total of 876 tons sold.

At the Fort Atkinson Hay Market, the top price was $265 per ton for a load of Kansas second crop big square bales. Most producers are expecting better quality hay for the rest of the summer, but probably not as much quantity.

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