The latest U.S.D.A. report on Iowa crop conditions shows “heavy and persistent rains” are taking a toll on some Iowa farm fields. Bill Northey, the state ag secretary, says many parts of the state below Interstate-80 are in “tough shape” with the worst conditions in the bottom two tiers of counties.
“There are places even there where you have good fields of corn, but they’re much less frequent,” Northey says. “And there’s some places north of that where some fields are in tough shape, but it’s much less frequent.” Northey says the dry weather forecast for this week is welcome news to Iowa farmers, especially those who are trying to harvest hay.
“Ideally, your first cutting of hay you’d want to get up about the first of June — maybe a little before, a little after. That was right during some of our wettest time. There were some places in northeast and northwest Iowa that were able to get some hay up then,” Northey says.
“Across southern Iowa, almost no hay got put up then. They were in some cases still planting soybeans, trying to take care of weeds in corn and maybe just had no days that it was even possible to get out there with a mower and cut that hay.” The quality of the crop also declines, as the hay is “tougher” the longer it stays in the field without being cut and baled. There were only two dry days last week in Iowa.
Crop conditions often vary dramatically in fields, as the topography determines whether the corn and soybeans are thriving, or drowning.
“You’ve got low areas where the water ran to and that, in some cases, is over the top of crops or if you’re along a river bed, you’re seeing crops that are drowned out, too,” Northey says. “But if you have rolling ground…even though you’ve got a record amount of water, if it ran off that side hill, some of those crops are looking very, very good.”
While there are pockets of the state where crop conditions are very poor, 72% of the state’s corn crop is rated good or excellent by the U.S.D.A. and 66% of the soybean crop is rated good or excellent.
“Overall, the numbers still look good, but if you happen to be in one of those areas that are in tough shape, you’re certainly not feeling not very good about your prospects for a good crop this year,” Northey says. According to Northey corn can survive under water for up to five days, but the hotter it is, the quicker it will die. Soybeans cannot sit very long under water, only a day or two, before they die.