The latest U.S.D.A. crop and weather report shows farmers were able to get some corn planted last week but not much. The report says eight percent of the corn acreage was planted, compared to 82% last year and 48% for the five-year average for this time of year.
State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says things looked promising for farmers as most of the temperatures the first two weeks of April were above normal. Then the temperatures went the other way. Hillaker says 15 of the last 16 days of the month were colder than normal, making a downward trend that goes against the usual upward trend of warmer days at the end of April when the days grow longer.
He says there were lows of 24 degrees in Sheldon on April 24th and 25 degrees in Waterloo on April 29th. Hillaker says wet conditions also contributed to the problems faced by farmers. He says rainfall totals ended up about one half inch above normal for the month, and was distributed pretty well through the month.
Hillaker says the one surprise in the month was the snowstorm on April 19th. Hillaker says there was snow accumulation in about the northern one-third of the state, as much as 6.5 inches in Dorchester. He says it was the widest spread snow we’d had in the state that late in the year going back to 1982.
Hillaker says while the weather set the planting season back, it did have a good side, as the cool weather kept out the warm air that spawned all the severe storms in the south. Hillaker says while the weather will continue to hang around normal temperatures in the coming weeks, but there should be enough warmth to help farmers.
Hillaker says soil temperatures are holding right around the magic 50-degree point, which he says is the number you want to at least start germinating. He says 55-degrees would be the ideal temperature for planting, but it doesn’t take long for it to warm up with some sunshine.
There was frost into central Iowa Monday, and temperatures in the 20’s in parts of northern Iowa. Hillaker says that might be a warning to be careful about planting too many tomatoes and other tender plants just yet. Hillaker says it will be a little bit harder as time goes on to get temperatures below freezing, but for northwest and north-central Iowa, it’s not uncommon to see frost up to May 10th.
The Iowa Ag Department reminds you to be aware that farmers will be heading to the field in greater numbers to take advantage of any warm days, so be aware of the potential for large, slow-moving vehicles on the roadways.