Southeastern Iowa experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions


(Chris Fenimore, NOAA/NESDIS/NCEI)
(Chris Fenimore / NOAA/NESDIS/NCEI)
Nick Fetty | June 21, 2016

About 14 percent of Iowa experienced abnormal dryness during the early part of June and since then that percentage has nearly doubled.

Data from the Drought Mitigation Center show that Iowa’s southeast corner is the driest region in the state. This region includes much of the area south of Interstate 80 and east of Interstate 35.

Drought intensity is measured on a five-point scale from “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought” to “severe drought” to “extreme drought” and finally “exceptional drought.” The Hawkeye State has not experienced severe or extreme drought since 2012.

Dr. Deborah Bathke, a climatologist with the Lincoln, Nebraska-based Drought Mitigation Center, warmed that if the current weather conditions continue it may lead to a “flash drought.”

“If we continue to see these high temperatures and lack of precipitation, I can see us quickly evolving into what we like to call a ‘flash drought,’ which is when we have this rapid onset of high temperatures combined with a lack of precipitation that really starts to desiccate our soils and stunt our crop growth,” Dr. Bathke told Radio Iowa.

Soil conditions have also varied across Iowa with most of the northern third of the state experiencing “adequate to surplus” levels of moisture in topsoil compared to southeast Iowa where over 60 percent of topsoil moisture levels were rated “short to very short,” according to the most recent Iowa Crop Progress & Condition report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Despite the hot and dry conditions in southeast Iowa, the USDA report found that statewide just 4 percent of Iowa’s corn land is classified as “poor” or “very poor” while 3 percent of soybean land falls into those same categories.

ISU researchers studying wasps to combat invasive soybean pest


An Iowa State University researcher is studying ways to combat soybean aphids, such as those pictured here. (Matt Kaiser/Iowa State University News Service)
An Iowa State University research team is studying ways to combat soybean aphids, such as those pictured here. (Matt Kaiser/Iowa State University News Service)
Nick Fetty | June 14, 2016

Researchers at Iowa State University are studying a stingless wasp species as a way to combat agricultural pests such as the soybean aphid.

Aphids began posing a serious threat to Iowa soybeans around 2000. Since that time the invasive insects have reduced crop yields by 40 percent during outbreaks and have led to a 130 percent increase in insecticide use on affected fields. The aphids are native to Asia and are suspected of being brought to the United States by travellers transporting plants.

The researchers are studying the Aphelinus glycinis, a stingless wasp that serves as a predator to aphids, at ISU-affiliated research farms this summer. Not only will the researchers be studying the effectiveness of the Aphelinus glycinis in reducing aphid populations but they will also study ways  the Aphelinus glycinis responds to the environment and affects Iowa’s ecosystem.

The research team consists of Matt Kaiser, a pre-doctoral associate in ISU’s Department of Entomology; Matthew O’Neal an associate professor in the Department of Entomology; and Keith Hopper, research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The idea of introducing one species as a way to reduce the population of an invasive species is a concept known as “biological control.”

“If there’s a pest causing harm to humans or the environment, you can find other organisms that reduce that harm by suppressing the pest’s population. That’s what we refer to as biological control,” Kaiser said.

The use of stingless wasps to combat invasive species is currently being tried by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to combat the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer in wooded areas near Fairfield. Similar biological controls were credited as helping to save California’s citrus fruit industry in the late 1980s.

Iowa farmers affected by recent storms and flooding


Nick Fetty | July 3, 2014
Flooded field in Polk County, Iowa Photo by cliff yates; flickr
Flooded field in Polk County, Iowa in 2008
Photo by cliff yates; flickr

Recent storms and flooding has damaged crops and other property for farmers in western Iowa and neighboring states.

June’s average rainfall was 9.61 inches, roughly an inch less than July during the flood of 1993,  while water levels seen on fields has been compared to 2008 levels. Roughly $15 million has been estimated for road, bridge, and building damages caused by recent flooding which does not include damage estimates for crops. This comes on the heels of farmers planting  “the largest soybean crop on record,” an 11 percent increase compared to last year.

Iowa State University offers information for dealing with flood-damaged crops.

Some Iowa farmers report better than expected harvest


Photo by wattpublishing, Flickr.

While the results are mixed, many Iowa farmers are reporting surprisingly high corn and soybean yields. In fact, some farmers had their highest yields ever this year despite the drought.

The reason for the large differences between farmers’ yields has to do with the high variability in this year’s rainfall. This led to some farmers receiving enough rain during pollination, while other farmers’ crops suffered.

Better than expected results have been reflected in Iowa’s estimated soybean yields, which have risen 10 percent since September.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Crop conditions remain unchanged despite scattered rain, cooler temperatures


Photo by cindy47452, Flickr.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday that, despite moderating weather conditions, much of Iowa’s crops are still in poor condition.

Iowa’s corn crop is rated 23 percent very poor, 30 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 14 percent good, and 1 percent excellent. Soybean conditions appear slightly better at 14 percent very poor, 23 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 23 percent good, and 2 percent excellent.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.

Weekend rainfall helped soybean crops


Photo by silk cut, Flickr.

Iowa’s recent rainfall probably wasn’t sufficient to reverse the drought damage to the state’s corn crop, but farmers say that Saturday’s storms may have spelled hope for soybean crops.

John Airy Jr., a farmer from Linn County said his soybeans received about an inch and a half of rain on Saturday, and the effect was almost immediate and may have increased his harvest yield by as much as 10 percent.

“The next day, you could see the plants that were stressed, the ones on the hilltops, they just looked better. You could see it (rain) perked them up a little bit,” said Airy.

For more information, read the full article at the Gazette.