Sponsored By
Wallaces Farmer

Drought Eases Grip On Iowa, But Dry Summer Is ForecastDrought Eases Grip On Iowa, But Dry Summer Is Forecast

April's wet weather has effectively ended drought in eastern Iowa, but western Iowa needs more subsoil moisture recharge.

Rod Swoboda 1

May 8, 2013

4 Min Read

Iowa's steady return to more normal soil moisture conditions moved farther west in the state this past week, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report. The report is issued each Thursday and can be accessed here. Approximately the western half of Iowa, or 53% of the state's total area, is now rated at least "abnormally dry." Only 6.4% of Iowa is in the "moderate to severe" drought category.


Parts of central Iowa remain abnormally dry, but some counties are drought-free. The severe-drought area is in counties along the Missouri River on the state's western edge. The National Weather Service issued an update of its long-term forecast last week, which stretches through July 31. It indicates the drought will continue to ease.

There is other good news too—as some field work has begun. "Those few days of dry weather in Iowa last week improved conditions for crop planting to start," notes state climatologist Harry Hillaker. "The soil has warmed considerably statewide. Since we're now in late April, soil temperatures aren't going to keep farmers out of fields."

New government forecast indicates warmer than normal summer for Iowa
The National Weather Service forecast indicates there's a good chance Iowa will have higher than normal temperatures by June, but rainfall trends remain a fifty-fifty deal in terms of a summer forecast. Does Hillaker think the drought will be over soon? It's hard to say, he answers. Cold, wet weather tends to change slowly, which means the it could fade. But there have been years that are exceptions. At this point, looking ahead to the potential for rainfall for the 2013 growing season, "anything is possible."

In northwest Iowa, which remains one of the state's driest areas in terms of subsoil moisture supply, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Paul Kassel noted on April 26, "There hasn't been any field work at all in my area this spring, but the forecast looks warm and dry for much of the next 10 days. I doubt if there will be much corn planted in April this year. Some people compare spring 2013 with the spring of 2011. There was a record corn planting pace in 2011. But our planting progress this spring may lag behind the progress of 2011."

Post-Drought Livestock, Range And Pasture Insight. No single group of producers has been more impacted by the 2012 drought than those who raise livestock. Download our FREE report, 5 Post-Drought Strategies For A Better 2013.


Looking at the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map showing that the area affected in Iowa is continuing to shrink, it's noteworthy about 29% of Iowa is now classified as "moderate" as of April 23--and much of that moderate area is in northwest and north central Iowa.

"The moisture situation in Iowa has changed quite a bit since the rains began April 9," notes Kassel. On April 22 it snowed 3 to 5 inches in northwest Iowa. Last week you could see water in road ditches, water standing in an occasional wet spot in fields and some drainage tiles with water running out of them. In that northwest part of the state—still one of the driest areas—there is concern about lack of moisture supply deep in the soil profile. But the rainfall accumulation in April is generally good news, he says. "We haven't had rainfall like this, with this kind of accumulation since July 2011."

It's been a wetter than normal year so far during 2013 for most of Iowa
As a result of the April rains combined with fairly wet conditions for all of 2013 to date, the drought is receding, observes ISU Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor. "The drought is really over for farmers east of Interstate 35, except for a few pockets. When you get west of I-35, there are still some problem areas." Taylor says all nine of Iowa's crop reporting districts are showing above-normal precipitation year-to-date for 2013. Looking beyond the end of April, he says there are as of yet no signals that a consistent weather pattern will settle into Iowa and the Corn Belt.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says farmers don't want to complain too much about the wet fields that kept them from doing fieldwork and kept them from planting in April, given the drought many of them suffered in 2012. "Chances are we are going to need this reserve supply of subsoil moisture in July and August," says Northey.

Post-Drought Livestock, Range And Pasture Insight. No single group of producers has been more impacted by the 2012 drought than those who raise livestock. Download our FREE report, 5 Post-Drought Strategies For A Better 2013.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda 1

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Rod, who has been a member of the editorial staff of Wallaces Farmer magazine since 1976, was appointed editor of the magazine in April 2003. He is widely recognized around the state, especially for his articles on crop production and soil conservation topics, and has won several writing awards, in addition to honors from farm, commodity and conservation organizations.

"As only the tenth person to hold the position of Wallaces Farmer editor in the past 100 years, I take seriously my responsibility to provide readers with timely articles useful to them in their farming operations," Rod says.

Raised on a farm that is still owned and operated by his family, Rod enjoys writing and interviewing farmers and others involved in agriculture, as well as planning and editing the magazine. You can also find Rod at other Farm Progress Company activities where he has responsibilities associated with the magazine, including hosting the Farm Progress Show, Farm Progress Hay Expo and the Iowa Master Farmer program.

A University of Illinois grad with a Bachelors of Science degree in agriculture (ag journalism major), Rod joined Wallaces Farmer after working several years in Washington D.C. as a writer for Farm Business Incorporated.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like