Rainfall has caused crop conditions to become more balanced


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Elyse Gabor | August 24, 2022

After excessive rainfall last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that crop conditions in Iowa have stabilized.  

State Climatologist Justin Glisan reported that Iowa received 23% more rain than usual. Northwest Iowa, which had been in a drought, received substantial amounts of these rainfalls.  

The rain caused a significant reversal in numbers from last week’s report. According to last Monday’s USDA report, more than 60% of Iowa’s corn is excellent. Soybeans report went down one percent with now just over 60% of the crop as excellent.  

The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.”  

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the state has seen drought conditions becoming more severe in the past months. The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.” 

Drought Worsens Crop Conditions in Southern Iowa


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Josie Taylor | August 16, 2022

The percentage of Iowa’s corn and soybeans rated good or excellent declined at least 7 points last week, the largest such drop this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The latest USDA report said 66% of the state’s corn and 63% of soybeans were good or excellent, down from 73% and 71% a week ago.

Widespread moderate to severe drought conditions are affecting southern Iowa, where the available soil moisture for crops is dwindling. Less than 10% of topsoil and subsoil in southwest Iowa has adequate moisture, according to the USDA.

In northeast Iowa, 90% of the soil has adequate or surplus water. In the past two weeks, northeast Iowa has had above-average rainfall and southwest has been abnormally dry.

The state as a whole received less than half the rainfall of what is typically expected last week and less than half the state has adequate soil moisture.

The area of worst drought is still in northwest Iowa near Sioux City.

Increased rainfall aids Iowa crops


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Grace Smith | July 14, 2022

Although this summer has been notably dry and hot, a derecho on July 5 and rainfall for the rest of that week resulted in improvement in the condition of some Iowa corn and soybean crops. The percentage of the corn crop rated good and excellent increased as of July 10 jumped to 81 percent from 77 percent the week before. Soybean crops increased by two percent, improving from 79 percent from 77 percent. 

Justin Glisan, a state climatologist, said the statewide weekly average precipitation was 1.01 inches above normal during the week of July 4, sitting at 2.12 inches.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday that 72 percent of topsoil was rated adequate and three percent sat rated very short. Subsoil moisture condition was rated 66 percent adequate and 22 percent short. 

Although some of Iowa’s crops are in better condition than before the rain, Ohio farmers are still concerned about the impact of the dry period on crops. As of July 10, soil in Ohio sits at 73 percent adequate and just 7 percent of soil contains surplus moisture. 

If droughts continue, crop size and quality can decrease, crop prices can increase, and crop cleaning practices may lessen with a lack of water.

Crops in Northwest Iowa Suffer Due to Drought


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Josie Taylor | July 6, 2022

Corn and soybean plants are continuing to suffer in some parts of Iowa from excessive heat and drought. This has been seen especially in far northwest Iowa where drought conditions are worsening. 

Large areas of Plymouth and Woodbury counties are in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It’s the first time in nearly a year that any part of the state was that dry. 

Much of the state’s corn crop is at its peak demand for water, and the soybean crop is approaching its peak. A small percentage of corn had begun to show silk for pollination as of Sunday, and about 13% of soybeans were blooming, the USDA report said.

In the past three weeks, the percentage of the state’s corn that is rated good or excellent has dropped from 86 to 77. 

Although there is drought in part of the state, soil moisture is still improved from a year ago. About two-thirds of the state’s topsoil and subsoil has adequate or surplus moisture, whereas last year more than half of the soil was short, according to the USDA report.

Investigation over the rise in fertilizer costs to be conducted by Iowa attorney general


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Elyse Gabor | March 1,2022

The extreme rise in fertilizer prices is causing a decrease in corn production for the upcoming growing season and harming farmers. On Thursday, Attorney General Tom Miller announced that they would investigate the rise in prices. 

In the past year, many fertilizers have doubled or tripled in cost. Miller’s office frequently investigates companies that inflate their profits and rates due to low competition. He has requested data from major fertilizer companies to try and explain the increase in prices. 

On Thursday, Miller said, “It’s possible that these increases could be legal, but not justified, not right.” 

The investigation will be sped up as spring and the start of the growing season is near, but it is expected to last many months. Miller hopes that bringing awareness to the situation will discourage an unjust rise in prices. 

Miller has found research that suggests that the price of fertilizers rises during the years that farmers brought in higher revenue. 

“If that’s what’s going on, we want to find out about that. That may not be illegal, but it’s not a good policy,” said Miller. 

Last year, farmers said they received quotes on fertilizers multiple times higher than in the past years. Since corn yields are high enough to support the increase in prices, Iowa’s corn production will have a delayed effect. Other states that lack fertile soil may choose to plant other crops. 

Common Crops Around the World are Being Impacted by Climate Change


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Josie Taylor | January 27, 2022

Climate change is hurting many crops, including some people’s favorite food. Research has shown for a long time that coffee is the most susceptible crop to climate change. A new study found that avocados and cashews are also being impacted by rising temperatures. 

In some of the countries that currently are reliant on cashews as a key cash crop the news is harmful. India loses significant areas of suitability, while Benin loses half its suitable areas under the lowest modeled increase in temperature. These countries’ economies rely on this crop. 

For avocados, the picture is complicated, especially in the biggest producing countries. Mexico, the world’s largest producer, sees a major increase in suitable lands, up over 80%. However, Peru, another major grower, loses around half its suitable areas under the same climate model.

While the rise in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns might make some areas more suitable, the researchers are concerned that a major shift to develop these crops in new regions might see more forests converted to farmland or a rise of invasive species.

Although this study focused on coffee, cashews and avocados, climate change is impacting all farmers. Climate change is causing both extreme drought and extreme precipitation. Both of those have great impact on growing crops.

Iowa Experiences Intense Weather Patterns


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Josie Taylor | June 30, 2021

Iowa crops are experiencing an intense weather pattern this summer. Despite rain over the past week, some parts of Iowa are still in need of more moisture in order to benefit crops. Some storms were so severe it ended up causing damage to crops. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said that the moisture is very needed, however there were flash floods in southeastern Iowa. 

This past week the average precipitation state-wide was 2.13 inches, when the weekly average is 1.09 inches. Prior to this week, over 90 percent of Iowa was experiencing abnormal dryness, and 44 percent of Iowa was experiencing severe drought. This is a drastic change. 

Northwest Iowa has reported to have inadequate soil moisture in over two-thirds of topsoil. In the opposite part of Iowa, the southeast, 60 percent of topsoil is adequate to surplus. 

Despite the intense changes, crop conditions have been stabilized, and 60 percent of Iowa corn is in good to excellent condition. Soybeans are also blooming earlier than past years. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds has given approval for state resources to be used in order to recover from the effects of this severe weather. This can apply to qualifying individual residents who are damaged by the weather.

Carbon dioxide makes food less nutritious


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Less nutritious crops could pose health problems for many people worldwide who rely heavily on rice as their main food source. (Rob Bertholf/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | April 5, 2018

The changing climate is forcing farmers to adapt, but how do rising greenhouse gas levels impact the food on our dinner plates?

A Harvard School of Public Health study looked at how more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affects nutrient levels in six primary food crops: wheat, rice, field peas, soybeans, corn and sorghum. The researchers split plants of the same crop up between two groups. The first group was cultivated in an environment with between 363 and 386 parts per million carbon dioxide (CO2). This was the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere at the time of the study, in 2014. The second group of plants grew up in an environment with between 546 to 586 parts per million of the greenhouse gas in the air. This is roughly the concentration of CO2 expected to be in Earth’s atmosphere within fifty years.

When it was time, the scientists harvested the crops and measured levels of key nutrients in them. They looked specifically at zinc, protein and iron. The study found that plants grown in environments with higher concentrations of CO2 were less nutritious than their counterparts. Wheat, rice and soybeans were all found to have lower levels of zinc, protein and iron in the higher CO2 conditions.

Animal products are the primary source of protein for most people in the U.S., but people in other parts of the world rely heavily on rice and wheat as their main protein providers. These foods are naturally low in protein and further deficiency could be devastating. One study in the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that these projected impacts could cause an additional 150 million people worldwide to be protein deficient by 2050. Protein deficiency can cause low birth weight and other health problems that stunt growth and development.

Wind turbines may improve growing conditions, study finds


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An Iowa State University study of a 200-turbine wind farm between Radcliffe and Colo found that turbulence from the structures have a positive effect on growing conditions. (jonbgem/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | December 22, 2016

Recent research from Iowa State University found that wind turbines may improve growing conditions for Iowa crops.

Gene Takle, a climate scientist at the university, and his team measured several factors including temperature, humidity, precipitation, as well as wind speed and direction on a 200 wind turbine farm in central Iowa. The researchers collected data from 2010 through 2013 using research towers.

Overall, the study shows that wind turbines have a positive impact on several factors that affect growing conditions. Turbulence generated by the turbines prevents the formation of dew and dries the crops, which can keep fungi from growing, researchers say. Wind turbines also alter the temperature around them. The turbulence increases nighttime temperatures by a half-degree to a full degree and cools daytime temperatures by a half-degree. Data shows that the wind produced by the turbines rustle up plants situated above cropland as well, allowing the sun to shine through.

Takle said, “That’s beneficial. It allows light to move deeper into the canopy.”

Iowa sources nearly 36 percent of its total energy from wind turbines, more than any other state. In all, energy companies have invested $12 billion in wind production in the Hawkeye state, and landowners earn $20 million each year in lease payments for wind farms.

The study is a part of a $20 million, five year grant from the National Science Foundation. Moving forward, Takle said that he is interested in researching the effects wind turbines might have on regional weather patterns.

He said, “If you had warm, humid air rising and cooling over a wind farm, it could lead to more cloud formations, possibly even enhance or influence … rainfall patterns.”

Takle added, “We’ve been measuring changes on the wind farm, but this would measure effects outside the wind farm.”

EnvIowa Podcast: Soybean crops found to contribute to nitrate levels in Iowa’s waterways


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Jenna Ladd | November 4, 2016

On episode three of EnvIowa, we sit down with Dr. Chris Jones, IIHR Research Engineer, to discuss his recent research, which looks at the effects of soybean crops on water quality in Iowa. Much of the research over the last 40 years has been focused on corn, given that corn plants require more fertilizer than soybean plants. However, studies in 2009 and 2016, both of which Dr. Jones co-authored, suggest that soybeans play a larger role than previously understood.

Dr. Jones helps us understand why nutrient pollution has increased steadily as more and more farmers have integrated soybeans into crop rotation, replacing smaller grains and cover-crops, and what it will take to turn this science into water quality policies that benefit Iowans.

The EnvIowa podcast can also be found on iTunes and soundclound. For a complete archive of past episodes, click on the EnvIowa Podcast tab at the top of this page.