While crop conditions stabilize, corn and soybean yield is expected to drop from previous years


Corn field
Via: Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 21, 2022

Iowa’s harvest season is here. After a summer full of droughts and unstable crop conditions, experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have rated more than 60% of the corn as good.  

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, said, “Despite widespread rainfall over the weekend, we anticipate unseasonably warm and dry weather will continue through the end of September, setting up ideal conditions as harvest activities ramp up.” 

The past summers have brought droughts, affecting crop conditions. Last year, 58% of the corn was rated as good. Soybean crop conditions are higher than the previous year, with over 60% of the crop rated as good.  

Southeast Iowa has experienced the worst of the drought. The state is the driest it has been in a year, with the U.S. drought monitor rating the driest places in Iowa as in “extreme” drought.  

Although current corn conditions are better than 2021’s harvest season, the USDA said that Iowa’s corn productions are down about 2.5% from last year. Soybean production is projected to be down almost 5% from last year.  

Northwest Iowa, Nebraska experience ‘exceptional’ drought


The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

Grace Smith | September 15, 2022

A small portion of Iowa – 0.2 percent – is experiencing exceptional drought status per the Sept. 8 U.S. Drought Monitor. The drought that northwest Iowa is in stands as the worst category of dryness by the drought monitor. This is the first time Iowa has received an “exceptional drought” classification since 2013. 2.2 percent of the state sits in an extreme drought. 

In addition to the drought, good crop conditions decreased slightly, per a U.S. Department of Agriculture report Monday. 63 percent of corn and soybeans were rated good or excellent, a three percent decrease from the week before. 

Although Iowa is only seeing an exceptional drought rating in 0.2 percent of the state, 10.5 percent of Nebraska is experiencing the worst drought classification, about a four percent increase from Aug. 30. 27.7 percent of the state is in an extreme drought, about an eight percent increase from last week. 

Lincoln, Nebraska has received less than an inch of rain over the past two months and had its fifth driest August on record. 84 percent of the state has short or very short topsoil moisture, and Omaha officials have requested water restrictions. 

The National Weather Service’s forecast predicts a 20 to 40 percent chance of showers in Nebraska this weekend, which could present some relief.

Climate change could worsen issues with the supply chain


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | September 13, 2022

A record-setting drought across China in August led to many immensely disrupted economic activities by stopping supply chains for automobiles, electronics, and more. This drought-induced interruption in the supply chain likely won’t the be last supply chain issue caused by climate change.

The severe drought in China caused rivers to dry up, negatively affecting hydropower. The lack of water flow is impacting areas in China that rely heavily on water power, including Sichuan, which gets over 80 percent of its energy from hydropower. The drought also forced many companies to halt business operations and stop shipping. 

White House economics said climate change-caused natural disasters like droughts and wildfires becoming more frequent would likely disrupt delivery on a global scale and worsen supply shortages, as seen in examples of U.S. natural disasters in the past few years:

  • Droughts in the western portion of the U.S. has put additional stress on agricultural exports.
  • Wildfires in the western U.S. have harmed the planning and logistics of larger delivery companies like Amazon. 
  • Texas winter storms in February 2021 shut down semiconductor plants, causing a shortage of chips across the world.

“What we just went through with [COVID-19] is a window to what climate could do,” Kyle Meng, associate professor of environmental economics in California told the New York Times.

The National Centers for Environmental Information calculated the number of billion-dollar natural disasters in America has grown to an average of 20 in the past two years. These increased disasters and high temperatures could create competition for food and prompt new policies that stop the exports of food.

Drought conditions in Iowa are projected to cut soybean harvest


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 6, 2022

Areas in Iowa are experiencing harsh drought conditions with little rain, per the U.S. Drought Monitor on Sept. 1. Iowa’s summer drought conditions spilling into September presents the problem of cutting soybean harvest later in the month. 

The report shows that 40.07 percent of Iowa experiencing a moderate drought, up 1.2 percent from last week. 19.27 of Iowa is dealing with severe drought conditions, and 2.08 percent of the state is in an extreme drought. The estimated population in Iowa undergoing drought is 1,040,243 people.

Along with drought affecting people, the heat is taking a toll on crops. On average, soybean yields are projected to drop to 58 bushels per acre this year, compared to 62 bushels in 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Aug. 12. Harvest is expected to decrease 4.7 percent from 2021.

Despite the decline, Iowa is still projected to be named the second largest soybean producer by harvesting 592.8 million bushels in the fall; a decrease of 29.1 million from last year.Despite heavy rainfall last week up to four inches in areas across Iowa, portions of the state in the southeast received less than half an inch, and remain dry. Southeast Iowa has about 10 percent of adequate soil moisture for crops. To compare, in northeast Iowa, 90 percent of the soil has adequate water for crops.

Europe’s drought-induced rivers reveal old artifacts


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | August 25, 2022

Europe has experienced one of the worst droughts in over 500 years this summer, lowering water levels, which exposed shipwrecks, bombs, and other lost materials. Europe experienced climate change-induced temperatures, including over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in Britain. 

As water levels drop in Europe, old relics are often exposed. In Rome, a bridge, over 2,000 years old was uncovered. In addition, the monument Dolmen of Guadalperal in Spain emerged from Madrid waters, and a small Spanish village from 1960 was revealed.  

Other items underwater were uncovered during Europe’s hot summer, including supplies used in combat. In July, a fisherman in Italy discovered a 1000-pound bomb in the Po River. Also, ships from Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet that sunk in 1944 — which had 10,000 pieces of unexploded artillery — were seen in Serbia in August. 

In addition to old relics, hunger stones — which mark water levels during droughts and remind older generations of the past, according to the German word — are now showing dates from 1417 and 1616 in the Elbe River near Děčín, Czech Republic.

Drought Worsens Crop Conditions in Southern Iowa


Via Flickr

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.

Crops in Northwest Iowa Suffer Due to Drought


Via Flickr

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.

Lake Mead may become a dead pool because of intense drought


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 30, 2022

Lake Mead, a lake on the border of Arizona and Nevada, experienced an extremely low water level on Thursday at 1,043.8 feet: the lowest level since 1930 when the lake was filled. Over 25 million people rely on water from the lake, which is also the nation’s largest reservoir. 

As of January 2022, Lake Mead is now at only 34 percent of its capacity. If the water level reaches below 895 feet, it will be classified as a dead pool. This means the lake will be too low to flow downstream or over the Hoover Dam, the lake’s lowest water outlet.

At the end of April, one of the water intake valves, which has been used since 1971, became exposed to air. This is the first valve to be above water in the lake and can no longer be in service.

The decrease in water comes from a drought occurring in the western United States that is described as the West’s worst drought in 1,200 years. In a Nature Climate Change study published in February 2022, authors estimated that 42 percent of the soil moisture depletion in the West from 2000-2021 was caused by human-provoked climate change. The drought, which started in 2000, will likely continue until at least 2030.

Dust storms, high winds, droughts may impact Midwest agriculture long term


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 24, 2022

Wind gusts up to 70+ mph, dry cropland, and a thunderstorm with high winds created a haboob, or a large and intense dust storm, in Northwest Iowa on May 13. The haboob was a part of a larger aggregate of thunderstorms traveling through Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and both North and South Dakota. This haboob and other windy conditions in the Midwest cause major problems for soil. 

Wind traveling through dry cropland unearths crops and soil in and on the ground. During a study by Texas-based erosion specialist Chris Coreil at the beginning of May, high winds and droughts caused farmers to lose soil anywhere between three to 29 tons per acre in South Dakota. The haboob erosion estimates were similar, with estimates of up to 12 tons of lost soil per acre in South Dakota. 

And the extreme temperature doesn’t appear to be ending soon. Climate change is causing an increase in precipitation and an increase in droughts, which will harm soil and agricultural practices. 

One way to combat these high winds and drought conditions is with a crop cover, which right now, only 3-5 percent in most states own a cover. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released an announcement in January expanding services and opportunities for “climate smart agriculture,” and has a goal of crop covers protecting 30 million acres of corn and soybean land in the U.S. by 2030.

Officials save Lake Powell as Drought threatens production of hydroelectric power


West USA - Lake Powell
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 10, 2022

The artificial reservoir, Lake Powell, seeks help from U.S. officials to boost water levels. A prolonged drought has dried up water levels, threatening hydroelectric power production for the Western states. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing 500,000 acre-feet of water. The water is coming from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. An acre-foot equals 3260,000 gallons of water and is enough to supply two houses with water for a year. 

This is the first time unprecedented measures have been taken to boost water levels. Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, said, “We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risk we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action.” 

As the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Powell was damned in the 1960s. If the lake were to dry up 23 more feet, the megawatt plant wouldn’t be able to supply millions of people in the western U.S. states with electricity.

In the past two decades, this has been the driest period ever recorded. The drought is believed to be caused by climate change.