Are Your Tile Lines Running Yet?

Iowa Farm Scene

We asked that question of farmers attending 2013 Iowa Master Farmer Awards Day.

Published on: March 18, 2013

Rain and snow during late February and first half of March in Iowa pretty much ran off rather than soaked into the ground because frost was still in the top foot or so of soil. That's what farmers attending the 2013 Iowa Master Farmer Awards day on March 14 in Des Moines reported. They came from all over the state; about 200 people attended. Northwest Iowa remains the driest part of the state, while thanks to snow and some rain, southeast Iowa is recharging its supply of subsoil moisture in the top 5 feet of soil.

Wayne Northey, of Spirit Lake in dry northwest Iowa, says "Our subsoil moisture reserve is very dry. We didn't get much snow this winter. We had some decent rain recently, not a great amount but at least some rain. But the ground was frozen so most of that rain ran off into streams and ponds. Lots of homes have had water in the basement in our area -- unusual in a drought. The rain melted the snow and the water couldn't get away. It didn't soak in because frost was in the ground."

WATCH ARKANSAS WEATHER: We asked farmers at the 2013 Iowa Master Farmer Awards day in Des Moines March 14 if they saw any tile lines running yet. The drought that hit hard last summer is still with us but there are a few tile lines starting to trickle in southeast Iowa. Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor says "Watch the weather in Arkansas during March. Itll give us clues to whether Iowa will have a wet or a dry planting season the last half of April and first half of May."
WATCH ARKANSAS WEATHER: We asked farmers at the 2013 Iowa Master Farmer Awards day in Des Moines March 14 if they saw any tile lines running yet. The drought that hit hard last summer is still with us but there are a few tile lines starting to trickle in southeast Iowa. Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor says "Watch the weather in Arkansas during March. It'll give us clues to whether Iowa will have a wet or a dry planting season the last half of April and first half of May."

Dennis Berger, farming with son Steve at Wellman in southeast Iowa, says most of the rain that fell in early March ran off with a lot of flooding in that area of the state. Ponds have started to fill. However, they had some moisture soak into the ground late last fall before the ground froze. "I would estimate our subsoil in this area is now two-thirds to three-fourths recharged and beginning to reach field capacity in some locations," says Steve. Some tile lines are starting to trickle.

Keep an eye on weather in Arkansas in March, it will forecast Iowa's planting season
"Pay attention to the weather in Arkansas during March," advises Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University Extension climatologist. "As days get longer, the weather pattern shifts north. The cold retreats into Canada where it belongs for the summer. And we in Iowa start having the weather in April and early May that was in Arkansas during March."