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Fairy-tale weather conditions needed to improve crop outlook

Article cover photo
Dennis Todey, director of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub, says farmers should expect a longer, wetter fall. He spoke at the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit last week in Des Moines. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too much moisture. Not too little moisture. Like Goldilocks, conditions have to be just right for the remainder of the growing season to produce a decent crop.

“We almost have to have a Goldilocks season for things to work out this year,” said Dennis Todey, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Midwest Climate Hub based in Ames.

Cool, wet weather during the planting season certainly hasn’t created storybook conditions for this year’s soybean crop. Iowa recorded its wettest June (2018) to May (2019) period in 124 years, Todey noted.

The USDA pegged soybean planting at 97 percent completed in Iowa earlier this week. Ninety percent of the Iowa soybean crop has emerged, more than two weeks behind the 5-year average, according to the USDA . One percent of the crop has started to bloom, the report noted.

Iowa crops are faring better than those in other states like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, where precipitation has been upward of 140 percent of normal precipitation this year, Todey noted.

Ninety-degree temps early this month should give way to cooler conditions by mid-month, Todey said recently at the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit last week in Des Moines.

“Normally that would be great crop news. This year? Not so much,” he said.

Cooler weather means fewer growing degree days for corn and soybean crops to mature.

“The late planting date will lead to some concerns in the fall because of the need to extend the growing season to allow crop maturity. Additional drying is likely going to be necessary,” Todey  wrote in an updated climate outlook yesterday.

Todey said farmers should plan for a longer, wetter fall.

“Get propane for drying set up right now,” Todey said.

It’s too soon to predict on when the first freeze could hit, he said.

A perfect Goldilocks scenario—average temperatures mid-summer and additional warmth from August on and a delayed first freeze—would benefit crops in Iowa this year, Todey said.

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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