Rainfall slowing fieldwork and crop progress in Iowa


Rain falling on a field near Mr. Vernon. Rich Herrmann/Flickr
Rain falling on a field near Mr. Vernon. Rich Herrmann/Flickr

A third consecutive week of above-average rainfall across the state limited farmers’ fieldwork and put added stress on crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Iowa Crop Progress & Condition report for the week.

There were just 2.6 days suitable for fieldwork statewide between June 30 and July 6, the third straight week with less than three days for farmers to be in their fields. That number reached as low as 1.4 days in central Iowa. Wet conditions prevented equipment from getting into fields, setting back weed control and slowing alfalfa hay baling.

The rain has also put some crops behind schedule, with oats turning color and soybeans blooming ahead of last year but at below average rates.

Fortunately, most Iowa fields have remained stable, with 76% of corn and 73% of soybean crops listed in good to excellent condition. Warm and dry weather will be needed to get crops back on schedule, yet more precipitation in the forecast may present continued challenges to Iowa farmers.

Farm runoff may cause largest Dead Zone yet


Photo by Joe Germuska, Flickr

Iowa is one of nine states along the Mississippi River implicated in contributing to what is expected to be the largest dead zone ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

The New York Times reports that phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers and animal waste runoff are largely to blame for the dead zones. The recent flooding along the Mississippi has exacerbated this runoff. With this impending damage to the Gulf, environmentalists are calling for stricter regulations of farms near the Mississippi:

For years, environmentalists and advocates for a cleaner gulf have been calling for federal action in the form of regulation. Since 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency has been encouraging all states to place hard and fast numerical limits on the amount of those chemicals allowed in local waterways. Yet of the nine key farm states that feed the dead zone, only two, Illinois and Indiana, have acted, and only to cover lakes, not the rivers or streams that merge into the Mississippi.

Many of the farmers along the Mississippi fear that the EPA will indeed heed the call and set chemical limits.

Don Parish, senior director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group, says behind that policy is the faulty assumption that farmers fertilize too much or too casually. Since 1980, he said, farmers have increased corn yields by 80 percent while at the same time reducing their nitrate use by 4 percent through precision farming.

“We are on the razor’s edge,” Mr. Parish said. “When you get to the point where you are taking more from the soil than you are putting in, then you have to worry about productivity.” Continue reading