Farmers Waiting for Subsoil to Recharge

Even where climatologists claim there's recharge, subsoil seems dry.

Published on: Dec 3, 2012

Soil recharge for 2013 after a dry 2012 was noted as a potential concern as early as late August by Elwynn Taylor while speaking at the Farm Progress Show near Boone, Iowa. He is a nationally known ag climatologist and agronomist at Iowa State University. He was specifically talking about the soils in Iowa. Soils in states to the west of Iowa are more similar to Iowa than soils in states to the east, except perhaps for the prairie soils of central Illinois.

Part of his logic was that Iowa soils are deeper, and corn roots had exhausted all the water they could find in 2012, going six feet or more deep to get it. That means that six to eight feet of soil must be recharged. With the forecast on the dry side in his area, he suspected soils might not be totally recharged by spring planting season in 2013. When the growing season begins and the subsoil isn't fully charged, the chances of a drought that significantly impacts yields is higher simply because there are fewer moisture reserves to keep crops going deeper into the season, Taylor explains.

Where is the water? Ag climatologists in the Eastern Corn Belt pronounced recharge complete or about complete a few weeks ago. That doesnt jive with some reports from the field.
Where is the water? Ag climatologists in the Eastern Corn Belt pronounced recharge complete or about complete a few weeks ago. That doesn't jive with some reports from the field.

Meanwhile, climatologists in the Eastern Corn Belt about a month ago after decent amounts of rain said subsoil was recharged or almost recharged there. The subsoil in that part of the world tends to be more like four feet deep for rooting capacity in most areas, a bit deeper in the limited amount of prairie soils that exist there, and much shallower in soils affected by dense till, fragipans and bedrock.

However, farmers aren't so sure about the declaration that soils are recharged, especially in northwestern Indiana, but also in other parts of the state. Those digging postholes or digging foundations for houses or soil pits for practice during soil judging season seldom found much moisture unless it was near a creek or in an area of an unusually high water table.

"We still need more rain to recharge the soil," one farmer in Indiana says. "They can say what they want, but when we dig postholes, the soil is dry. It's hard to say the subsoil is recharged when you dig that deep and all you get is dry soil."