Fall Drought Continues, Threatens Next Year's Yields

Drought conditions in Iowa have worsened; rain is needed soon to begin replenishing subsoil moisture reserves for 2013 crops.

Published on: Oct 8, 2012

Despite the continuing dry conditions, Iowa is still likely to top the total rainfall of the last severe drought, which was 1988, when just 21.65 inches fell during the entire year. Iowa's normal annual precipitation is 35.27 for the statewide average.

USDA estimate for 2012 crop yields and production to be released October 11

In Illinois which has suffered all summer, only the northwest corner of that state is now in the "severe" drought category, and the rest of the state is merely rated "dry," according to the latest drought map. The crop-crippling drought through June, July and August has hurt the corn crop in that state, normally the No. 2 producer behind Iowa, and has left it with a corn crop that last week was rated by USDA as 75% poor to very poor. Iowa's corn crop last week was rated 47% poor to very poor.

USDA's next monthly crop production report will be released October 11 and will give an update on the official yield estimates for corn and soybeans for the U.S. and for individual states. The October Crop Production Report is based on in-the-field surveys conducted around October 1 by USDA enumerators. Despite the continuing drought, farmers in some areas of Iowa say they are pleasantly surprised this fall, as corn and soybean yields in some of their fields are turning out to be better than they expected, considering how hot and dry it was in July and August.

The commodity consulting firm FCStone last week estimated total U.S. corn production for 2012 at 10.824 billion bushels, with a yield average of 123.9 bushels per acre. That projection is a better forecast than USDA's September estimate for a national corn yield of 122.8 bushels per acre and a production 10.727 billion bushels. FC Stone estimated soybean yields for the U.S. last week at 38.2 bushels per acre with a total crop size of 2.849 billion bushels. USDA in its September report estimated the U.S. soybean average yield at 35.3 bushels per acre and production at 2.634 billion bushels for 2012.

Meanwhile, looking ahead to next year's crop, "We definitely need a recharge on soil moisture statewide, and we need it soon," says Roger Elmore, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist.