Lack Of Rain Is Hurting Iowa Crops

USDA's latest weekly crop conditions survey shows the percentage of Iowa's 2011 corn crop that is rated "good to excellent" has declined to 67% as of Aug. 14, down from 73% a week earlier.

Published on: Aug 17, 2011

The percentage of Iowa's 2011 corn crop rating good to excellent has declined to 67% as of August 14, according to the latest statewide survey. Iowa's corn crop was rated 73% good to excellent a week earlier. The decline is primarily due to lack of rain in much of the state.

That's according to the weekly Crops & Weather survey released August 15 by the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) in Des Moines. The report is based on survey data gathered and analyzed as of August 14. "That 67% good to excellent rating is only 1% below the normal average," says Greg Thessen, director of the Iowa USDA/NASS office.

Cooler conditions have been welcomed by both crops and livestock. However the desire for rain gets stronger with each passing day. Farmers are now waiting for moisture and waiting for the crops to mature to see what kind of year it has really been, says Thessen.

Timely rains in mid-August would be very beneficial for soybeans

Soybeans have also slipped. The percentage of Iowa's 2011 soybean crop with a good to excellent rating dropped from 75% on August 7 to 70% on August 14.

State climatologist Harry HIllaker says Iowa averaged only .43 inch of rain last week compared to a normal of .97 inches. "Now that the heat has broken, farmers are now looking for some precipitation," he notes. "Much of the state is dry, and crop and pastures could use some rain. August is a critical time for soybean development and timely rains would be very beneficial."

The weekly 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.  Here's a summary of the report:

Iowa Crop Conditions as of Aug. 14, 2011

                                   This Week                Last Week

                   Fair       Good      Excellent        Excellent

Corn           25%        49%          18%               22%

Soybeans   22%        49%          21%               23%

While Iowa's crop has slipped, U.S. crop is deteriorating even more

USDA on August 11 lowered its national average corn yield estimate for the 2011 U.S. crop to 153 bushels per acre, down dramatically from the 158.7 bushel trendline yield USDA had projected in July.

Now, Iowa State University Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor is projecting an even lower U.S. corn yield. On August 15 Taylor updated his projection by releasing an estimate of 149 bushels per acre for the nation's crop.

"We're seeing a deterioration continuing in the nation's cornfields," says Taylor. "Iowa has some deteriorated places, but Iowa has some real garden spots too. I think the garden spots are going to hold up. Right now things look really good for their future this year. But in the areas of Iowa where corn plants already have their leaves firing up to the ear, they are done for this season."

Bean yield prospects in 2011 are tracking same way corn is: down

What about soybeans? It's still too early for Taylor to put a number on his soybean yield guess or at least to make his number public. He points out that bean yields depend so much on rain in August, during pod-filling time.

However, Taylor does give folks a hint. He says soybean yield prospects for 2011 are tracking about the same way corn is for the U.S. this year. "That's the way it's been for the last 5 years," he says. "My rule of thumb is if you don't know anything about soybeans, just say they are following corn yield prospects. That's been true the last five years when you look at the national numbers."

Over 13% of Iowa corn has reached dent stage, equal to 5-year average

Fungicide and pesticide applications on corn and soybeans are wrapping up in most areas of Iowa, the August 14 Crop & Weather report states.

There were 6.4 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week ending August 14. Only southwest Iowa had less than 6.0 days suitable with just 5.6 days suitable. Topsoil moisture levels rated 12% very short, 34% short, 52% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 7% very short, 29% short, 62% adequate and 2% surplus.

All crop reporting districts in Iowa have at least 96% of their corn crop tasseling and silking. And 86% of the corn crop has reached the milk stage, behind last year's 91% but ahead of the normal 79%. Slightly over half the corn crop has reached dough stage, behind last year's 65% but ahead of the average 45%.

As of August 14, 13% of the corn in Iowa is in the dent stage, behind the 24% at this time in 2010, but equal to the 5-year average. Corn condition declined slightly to 67% good to excellent which is just 1 percentage point below average.

Soybeans now 70% good to excellent; pod set is running behind normal

The 97% of the Iowa soybean crop that is now blooming matches normal. Pods are being set on 84% of the soybean crop compared with 90% last year at this time and the 5-year average of 87%. Soybean condition on August 14 rated 2% very poor, 6% poor, 22% fair, 49% good and 21% excellent.

Only 2% of the oat crop remains to be harvested for grain. Second cutting alfalfa hay harvest, at 96% complete, is ahead of last year's 91% and the normal 94%. Third cutting alfalfa hay harvest advanced to 39% complete, behind last year's 45% but ahead of the normal 36%. The condition of the hay crop is reported at 4% very poor, 14% poor, 34% fair, 40% good and 8%excellent.

Nearly 25% of Iowa's pastures are rated "poor to very poor" condition

Pasture and range condition is rated at 6% very poor, 18% poor, 35% fair, 35% good and 6% excellent. Nearly one-quarter of Iowa's pastures are considered to be in poor to very poor condition with over one-third of the pastures in south central and southeast Iowa in poor to very poor condition. Moderating temperatures have improved conditions for livestock.

IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY--for week ending Aug. 14, 2011

By Harry Hillaker, state climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

The past work week began with temperatures averaging slightly above normal statewide on Monday (Aug. 8) with highs mostly in the 80's and low in the 60's; however, cooler than usual weather made a welcome return for the remainder of the reporting week. Afternoon high temperatures were mostly in the upper 70's to mid 80's starting on Tuesday with overnight lows in the 50's to low 60's.

Temperature extremes ranged from highs of 90 degrees at Fort Madison and Keokuk on both Monday (Aug. 8) and Tuesday (Aug. 9) to a low of 46 degrees at Sibley on Wednesday (Aug. 10). Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 2.8 degrees below normal. While hot weather made a welcome departure, dry weather did not.

Only a few scattered areas in northeast, east central and far southwest Iowa received more than one inch of rain. Nashua and Maquoketa reported the most rain with 2.15 inches. Parts of southeast Iowa (Washington, Mount Pleasant and Burlington) saw no rain at all. Fairfield has recorded only 0.67 inch of rain since June 27. The statewide average precipitation was 0.43 inch while normal for the week is 0.97 inch. Finally, there were numerous reports of large hail and /or high winds across parts of east central Iowa on Monday (Aug. 8) afternoon.