Iowa Crop Conditions Deteriorate as Soil Moisture Drops

(Radio Iowa) The latest USDA crop report shows increasing drought concerns across Iowa. Only 30 percent of the subsoil moisture was rated adequate and there is zero soil with a surplus. The percentage of topsoil moisture considered short to very short has gone from 25 percent 70 percent in the last month. Iowa State Extension crop systems specialist, Mark Licht, says weekend storms provided a small help to some areas.

“The whole state really needs rain — because even when we did get over the weekend was only going to last a couple of days with the crop demand right now,” he says. Licht says southeast and northwest Iowa are the driest areas and he saw issues in northeast Iowa Tuesday.

“It’s not uncommon to see corn leaves rolling, soybeans that are showing a little bit of that drought stress as well,” Licht says. “If we think of the Drought Monitor coming out again on Thursday, I expect northeast Iowa is probably going to show a little bit of worsening. Southeast Iowa, extreme northwest Iowa, you know all those I think are going to show a little bit of worsening of those conditions.”

Licht says it’s not a time for major concern just yet, as the impacts in the spring from drought stress are minimal compared to later in the growing season.

“If we have some leaf rolling sustained over a long period of time throughout the day, you know, that may only be one or two percent yield loss,” he says. “Whereas if we get leaf rolling and drought stress during pollination, then we’re looking at something a lot more significant.” He says the later stress can lead to a three to five percent per day yield loss. There are predictions June’s weather pattern will turn and we’ll get more rain. Licht says that would turn things around as long as they are not dumping huge amounts of rain all at once.

“When we get those heavy, heavy rains, typically it ends up sealing that soil surface and water starts running off and then we just don’t get the benefit from it. Right?,” Licht says. “So if we can get the moderate rains that are nice long soaking rains, those are where we’re really going to find the benefits.” Licht says the one concern is corn or bean plants that haven’t fully established themselves yet.

“Really just anything that got planted late, you know, the root systems just haven’t had time to develop and any moisture that we have is already been taken up or evaporated out of the soil.” Licht says.

The USDA found the corn condition continued to decline — with 59 percent rated good to excellent — down from 70 percent last week. The soybean condition dropped to 56 percent in good to excellent shape — compared to 66 percent last week.