Farm Progress

Much of Iowa received needed moisture last week

Latest weekly survey rates Iowa’s corn crop 60% in good-to-excellent condition.

Rod Swoboda 1, Editor, Wallaces Farmer

August 29, 2017

5 Min Read
SOME RELIEF: Thanks to last week’s rain, Iowa topsoil moisture has improved to 13% very short, 26% short, 60% adequate and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 18% very short, 31% short, 50% adequate and 1% surplus.

After a mostly dry summer, much of Iowa received needed moisture last week as rain finally came. It will hopefully help corn and soybean crops as they move toward maturity. This is the first time in five weeks that topsoil moisture has been less than 90% short-to-very-short in south central Iowa, according to the weekly statewide survey released Aug. 28 by USDA.

“We are starting to see some corn being chopped for silage in Iowa, including areas that have been impacted by drought and farmers need additional forage for their livestock,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

‘Gang of 7’ weighs in with yield predictions
Iowa’s “Gang of 7” met recently in Cedar Rapids. They gather somewhere in Iowa each summer. This group of farmers — now pretty much retired — was active leaders in the Iowa Corn Growers Association years ago. They helped get ethanol started, among other things. At last week’s reunion, the gang members went around the table and gave their impressions of 2017 corn crop prospects.

“Crops in the area where I farm look pretty good,” said Thurman Gaskill, from Corwith in northern Iowa. “We got hurt a little by the weather this summer, but overall I think we’re going to do okay. We averaged 222 bushels of corn per acre last year on our farm. My current estimate is we’ll average 195 to 200 bushels per acre. I would say, looking at our entire crop, we’ll produce about 10% less than last year.”

Other members of the Gang of 7 in other Iowa areas also estimate they’ll harvest lower yields this fall than last year. Cass County, in the southwest quarter of Iowa, usually gets hit hard in dry years. “But this year we’ve caught some rain, and yield prospects look decent,” says Varel Bailey. In east-central Iowa, Jones County corn isn’t as good as last year, says Dan Stadtmueller. In southeast Iowa, Washington County has been hard hit by drought and will likely average at least 10% to 15% below last year’s average corn yield for the county, says veteran corn grower Keith Hora.

USDA weekly crop and weather report
The complete weekly crop and weather report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship’s website or on USDA’s site at The report summary follows.

Summary of Iowa crop conditions
Iowa experienced below-normal temperatures and received adequate rain throughout the western half of the state during the week ending Aug. 27, according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Statewide there were 4.4 days suitable for fieldwork. Activities for the week included haying, hauling grain, chopping corn and harvest equipment preparation.

Topsoil moisture levels as a statewide average improved to 13% very short, 26% short, 60% adequate and 1% surplus as of Aug. 27. Topsoil moisture in south-central Iowa was reported at 85% short to very short. This is the first time in five weeks that topsoil moisture has been less than 90% short-to-very-short in that district. Subsoil moisture as statewide average rated 18% very short, 31% short, 50% adequate and 1% surplus.

Iowa corn crop now 88% in dough stage
Iowa’s 2017 corn crop was 88% in or beyond dough stage on Aug. 27. That’s eight days behind last year, but two days ahead of the five-year average. And 41% of the corn crop has reached dent stage, eight days behind last year and four days behind average. Iowa’s corn crop is now rated 60% in good to excellent condition.

Looking at Iowa’s 2017 soybean crop, 94% of the acres were setting pods, two days behind last year, but one day ahead of average. And 6% of soybeans had started to turn color, three days behind average. Soybean condition improved slightly to 60% good to excellent. Similar pests and weeds as last year were reported for soybeans, with limited reports of disease pressure such as sudden death syndrome or mold issues.

Third cutting of alfalfa hay has reached 82% complete, six days ahead of last year and 10 days ahead of average. Pasture condition is rated 17% very poor, 23% poor, 35% fair, 22% good and 3% excellent. Lack of water in ponds and creeks continues to be an issue in southern Iowa for cattle, with reports of cattlemen hauling water and using CRP acres for emergency haying and grazing.

Weather summary for Iowa
Harry Hillaker, state climatologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, provides the following summary for the week ended Aug. 27.

It was an unseasonably cool and wet week across most of Iowa. The reporting week began with temperatures slightly above normal on Aug. 20-21. However, below normal temps prevailed for the remainder of the week across most of Iowa. Aug. 22-23 were the coolest days when afternoon highs were only in the 70s. Temperature extremes for the week ranged from an Aug. 20 afternoon high of 89 degrees at Boone to an Aug. 23 morning low of 44 degrees at Stanley in Buchanan County. Temperatures for Iowa for the week as a whole averaged 2.6 degrees below normal.

Rain brought welcome moisture in drought areas
Light rain was scattered across central and eastern Iowa the morning of Aug. 20. Rain fell statewide Aug. 21 interfering with viewing of the solar eclipse but providing very welcome moisture in drought areas. Heaviest rains fell across the western one-third of Iowa where flash flooding occurred in some areas early on Aug. 21. On Aug. 22 and most of Aug. 23, skies were dry. Rain, mostly light, fell over parts of northwest and central Iowa the morning of Aug. 24. Rain fell across much of the northwestern two-thirds of Iowa the night of Aug. 24.

Locally heavy rain fell over far northwest Iowa the night of Aug. 25. Finally, light rain was scattered over the northeast one-third of the state on Aug. 26 into the morning of Aug. 27. Rain totals for the week varied from only 0.05 inch at Guttenberg to 7.37 inches at Denison. Statewide average rainfall amount was 1.78 inches or about double the weekly normal of 0.91 inch.

Highest statewide average rain total in 12 weeks
This was the highest statewide average rain total in 12 weeks (since mid-May). However, rain totals were below normal for the week across most of northeast and east central Iowa. This portion of the state, which had been rather wet in the early and mid-summer, has turned quite dry over the past month.

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.

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