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Charles City area farmers need a weather break

Good news is drought is over; bad news is that farmers can’t get into their fields 

Enterprise Media Staff Report

The 2022 planting season has gotten off to a slow start. A. Very. Slow. Start.

Blame Mother Nature, who provided us with a wet and cool April. But while just 7% of this year’s corn crop has been planted in northcentral Iowa, ISU Extension Agronomist Terry Basol said there’s still time for area growers to get their crops into the fields.

Charles City area farmers need a weather break
Iowa Drought Report issued May 5, 2022.

“We are behind schedule, definitely behind,” he said. “But if we could string a week or two of decent weather, we’d be OK. Now, stringing two or three days of good weather lately seems impossible.”

Farmers made little progress last week, with just 14% of Iowa’s expected corn crop planted, at least two weeks behind both last year and the five-year average, according to the weekly crop planting and condition report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Seven% of soybeans have been planted, 12 days behind last year and 11 days behind average.

Seventy-two percent of the expected oat crop has been planted, 17 days behind last year and 11 days behind the 5-year average. Thirty-two percent of the oat crop has emerged, 12 days behind last year and 8 days behind normal.

The situation in the northcentral district, which includes Floyd County, is much worse, with only 7% of the corn and 1% of the soybeans planted, according to the report released Monday.

That rainy April and rainy start to May are only part of the problem. A relatively cold spring has left soil temperatures in the area ranging from 44 to 49 degrees, and Basol said farmers shouldn’t plant until soil temperatures are at least 50 degrees, “with a warming trend on the way.”

Monday was the warmest day of the year so far, with temperatures reaching into the 80s, but more rain also.

Basol said that farmers might be itchy but they aren’t panicking yet, because if they can get their corn fields seeded by the “May 15 to May 18 window, we should be fine.”

“We just need Mother Nature to realize it’s time to warm up and turn off the tap for a little bit,” he said.

The good news is that much of Northeast Iowa is for the first time in almost a year drought free. Save for portions of western portions of Floyd and Mitchell counties, which the U.S. Drought Monitor in its weekly report released Thursday classified as “abnormally dry,” the rest of the area, including all of Chickasaw, Bremer and the eastern half of Floyd counties, have seen the drought come to an end.

“Last summer obviously was really difficult, but the big storms we had in August, the rains we had in October last fall and what we’ve had lately have been godsends for the guys,” Basol said. “My only concern is we may have challenges getting the seed up, breaking through and getting going. But our moisture compliment, thankfully, has been restored.”

And while Basol said “You have to look far and hard to find a field planted around here,” he remains hopeful that the weather will turn around.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig also expressed a note of optimism.

“A noticeable shift in the cool and wet weather pattern appears to have given farmers a much-needed window for planting this week,” said Naig in response to the Monday state and federal crop report. “In the days ahead, unseasonably hot temperatures and isolated chances of thunderstorms should allow farmers to make good progress.”

Last week began with rain and colder than normal temperatures, but Iowa farmers found the end of the week fair enough to resume planting row crops with 1.8 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending May 8, according to the weekly report.

Fieldwork activities also included spraying, when windy conditions allowed, and spreading manure.

Statewide, the average topsoil moisture condition rated 1% very short, 9% short, 73% adequate and 17% surplus. Subsoil moisture condition rated 4% very short, 19% short, 67% adequate and 10% surplus.

In the northcentral district, topsoil moisture was rated 0% very short, 3% short, 93% adequate and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 2% very short, 25% short, 70% adequate and 3% surplus.


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