The U.S.D.A.’s first crop update for the 2015 growing season says nearly 75-percent of Iowa’s cropland has adequate-to-surplus soil moisture.
It also finds almost one-third of the state’s fields are short-to-very short of moisture for the upcoming growing season. Iowa State University agronomist Aaron Saeugling, who covers 14 southwest Iowa counties, says many Iowa farmers are starting their field work in preparation for planting.
“We’ve been busy applying fertilizer this spring,” Saeugling says. “A little bit of tillage, very little seeding has occurred at this point in the growing season. As moisture goes, I would say this is one of the drier springs that we have experienced here as of late, although the forecast is for precipitation all week, so hopefully we can get some measureable precipitation out of that.”
Joel DeJong, a field agronomist with the Iowa State University Extension based in Le Mars in northwest Iowa, says the dry conditions during March helped many growers to check off their pre-planting chores.
“We had a lot of manure to haul because we froze so early last fall, so, we’re getting quite a bit of manure hauled,” DeJong says. “There’s some fertilizer being applied and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity. The soil conditions, most people tell me right now, are really pretty good for getting that done.”
DeJong says a little rain could help, but soil conditions are okay. “The subsoil moisture actually for most of northwest Iowa last fall was pretty good,” DeJong says. “The surface was dry but the subsoil was pretty good, except as you get close to the Minnesota border. Those areas, the eastern half of Lyon County as you head east of the Okoboji region, that was actually below normal.” He says he’s optimistic about the chances of growers getting the needed moisture to recharge the soil once they begin seeding.
“Our top five feet of soil in this region can hold about ten and a half inches of water,” DeJong says. “We were at around seven to eight inches on the first of November last year. The true moisture need for the crop doesn’t kick up until we get into mid-June and the corn plant’s starting, as far as that subsoil moisture.” Right after planting, he says farmers will need water to re-wet that top surface so the seeds will get started and get those root systems growing down to where that water is stored.
(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)