Almost dry creek

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Will the recent moisture impact drought conditions?

April 25, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

This week, Scot Bailey, the district 7 director for the Iowa Soybean Association board (ISA), finished planting nearly 200 acres of corn on his farm in Cass County. When he’s finished with corn, he’ll turn to his soybean crop, hoping to move that along quickly.

But he may have to wait a bit if the weather forecast holds true and southwest Iowa, along with the rest of the state, receives the rain that is predicted to cover much of Iowa.

“It sounds like we have a 95% chance of rain tonight (Thursday), then about an 80% chance on Friday and Saturday and then again a pretty good chance on Sunday,” says Bailey.

Indeed, forecasters from the National Weather Service are calling for 1-2 inches of rain across the  majority of the state; southeast Iowa possibly 3 inches or more this weekend.

“Right now we have some good moisture in the top profile,” Bailey says. “The top 2 inches we have plenty of moisture there. But with any kind of tillage, that can dry out pretty darn quick.

“In southwest Iowa, we really need some pretty good moisture. Our pond levels are getting low and most guys around here are using those ponds to water their cattle. I’ll be watching to keep those levels up and hopefully have some reserve there.”

Drought issues continue to plague much of Iowa.

Drought Map of Iowa

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the bulk of Iowa is listed as moderately and/or severely dry. A portion of northwest Iowa and southeast Iowa are listed as normal, while a good chunk of northeast Iowa falls in the “extreme drought” category, including Benton, Bremer, Chickasaw, Fayette, Iowa, Poweshiek and Tama counties.

Rainfall or no rainfall, Iowa farmers have made an initial dent in spring planting. According to this week’s crop report from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), corn planted reached 13% complete, while 8% of the expected soybean crop had been planted. Those percentages are three days and four days ahead, respectively, from last 2023.

For Bailey, getting out in the field is important, but moisture remains a key element into whether or not he has a decent crop.

“The big tile lines are running right now, but the smaller tile lines, there just hasn’t been any water for quite a while,” he says.

Bailey says for those out in the field, it can be a nerve-racking time.

“A lot of guys got out there early, and then all of a sudden we had temperatures below freezing,” he says. “And then the corn and beans just sit there.”

Bailey is pleased he made the decision to start planting this week but is mindful one can never fully predict what will happen.

“I know they’re talking about changes in the weather patterns and that might play a little bit different this year, but you just don’t know,” he says. “Mother Nature is remarkable in what she provides, and sometimes you just get by. We’ll just see what happens.”