Iowa Soil Moisture Reserves Only 47% Adequate

Farmers will begin planting corn this week into soil rated at only 47% adequate statewide, for subsoil moisture reserve for 2012 crop.

Published on: Apr 10, 2012

Iowa farmers in a large part of Iowa will begin planting corn this week into soil that is drier than normal entering spring. The amount of moisture held in reserve in the top 5 ft. of soil is rated at only 49% adequate statewide. Last year at this time it was rated at 83% adequate. That's according to the weekly Iowa Crops & Weather survey released April 9 by USDA's National Ag Statistics Service office in Des Moines.

Topsoil moisture is currently rated 55% adequate for Iowa. But it's the amount of water in the subsoil--which is measured as the top 5-feet of soil profile--that is the more important indicator of crop prospects for the 2012 growing season. That's the reserve supply which is held to carry the crop through in case timely rains don't come. Roots can reach down to get that reserve moisture during summer dryness.

Iowa Soil Moisture Reserves Only 47% Adequate
Iowa Soil Moisture Reserves Only 47% Adequate

The 47% level is an improvement from earlier this year when moisture deficient soil ratings approached 80% after an abnormally dry summer and fall last year. While the "47% adequate" is a statewide average, the greatest subsoil moisture deficits are in the western half of the state. The most serious dryness problems remain in northwest and north central Iowa, where the USDA survey rates subsoil moisture supplies at only 15% adequate. West central Iowa is rated only 29% adequate and central Iowa is 47%.

Driest areas of Iowa are cause for concern going into 2012 planting season

"I'm still very concerned about these driest areas of Iowa," says Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, who farms near Spirit Lake in the northwest part of the state.

An above average amount of rainfall in March alleviated much of the dry conditions in a large area of the state. During the first week of April, however, only 0.09 inch of precipitation fell statewide, while normal for the week is 0.66 inch, says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Also, after unusually warm weather in March, Iowa was hit this past weekend with freezing nighttime temperatures in some areas and another bout with patchy frost is due overnight Monday night April 9 into Tuesday. The result will be a delay in planting for much of the state for another week, although some farmers say they will try to get into the fields this week and start planting corn. Iowa reported just 1% of the state's corn acreage planted as of April 8, compared to 32% in Kentucky and 23% in Missouri.

"Most farmers are holding off on corn planting until the crop insurance deadline this Wednesday April 11, but I expect planting to advance quickly if the weather remains agreeable," says Northey. "Much of the state remains fairly dry and farmers could use some rain to replenish soil moisture levels."

The weekly Iowa Crops & Weather report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov or on USDA's site at www.nass.usda.gov/ia. Following is a summary of the report released April 9.

April 11 crop insurance date nears, farmers are excited to begin planting corn

CROP REPORT: As Iowa's crop insurance plant date for corn slowly approaches (April 11), farmers are excited about getting planting underway. Most of the week's rain occurred in the southeast corner of the state this past week. The week's most common field activities were application of anhydrous, tiling and leveling of last year's cornstalks.

There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork during the past week which ended April 8. Statewide soil moisture levels are still a big concern with most farmers hoping for rain before corn planting gets underway. Topsoil moisture levels rated 12% very short, 31% short, 55% adequate and 2% surplus. Northwest Iowa continues to be the driest area in the state with 78% short to very short for topsoil moisture. Iowa's subsoil moisture rated 18% very short, 33% short, 47% adequate and 2% surplus as of April 8.

With only 1% of the corn planted across the state, farmers look forward to widespread planting. Oat acreage planted was 75% complete, well beyond both last year's 29% and the five-year average of 21%. In Iowa, 23% of the oat acreage has emerged which is 16 days ahead of normal.

Pasture and range condition rates 2% very poor, 5% poor, 25% fair, 47% good and 21% excellent as of April 8. Warm temperatures have meant less stress on livestock this spring and gave livestock the chance to graze pastures early.

IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—for week ending April 8, 2012

By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

The past reporting week began with unseasonably warm weather on Monday (April 2) and gradually cooled to near normal readings by the weekend. The state's most widespread freeze since March 13 affected most of the northeast one-half to two-thirds of Iowa on Friday (April 6) morning with a hard freeze in a few areas. Freezing conditions were also scattered across all but the far southeast corner of the state on Sunday (April 8) morning with a hard freeze in a few western locations.

Temperature extremes for the week ranged from highs of 92 degrees at Sioux City and Little Sioux on Monday to a morning low of 23 degrees at Cresco on Friday and 25 degrees at Sibley on Sunday. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged from 6 degrees above normal over the far east to 11 degrees above normal over the far west with a statewide average of 8.8 degrees above normal. An exceptional streak of 24 consecutive days with at least one location in Iowa reaching at least 70 degrees finally ended on Thursday. No rain fell over about the northwest one-quarter of Iowa over the past week while Keokuk Airport reported the most rain with 1.49 inches.

The statewide average precipitation was only 0.09 inch while normal for the week is 0.66 inch. There were a few thunderstorms over extreme southern and southeast Iowa on Tuesday and again over the far south on Wednesday into Thursday morning. Finally, showers and a few thunderstorms brought light rain to the southeast three-fourths of Iowa on Saturday. This was Iowa's driest week in eight weeks. Very low soil moisture levels prevail over northwest and north central Iowa. This is a remnant of very dry late summer and fall 2011 weather in those areas exacerbated by relatively little rain over the past month. Finally, soil temperatures as of Sunday were averaging in the low 50s in most areas.