Thursday, August 30, 2007

Will Record Rainfall Affect Record-Breaking Crop Predictions?

As the wettest August in Iowa's history comes to an end, farmers are assessing the impact of the recent wild weather on their crops. In some areas of the state, powerful storms dumped more than a foot of rain in less than one week.

Despite some areas where crops were damaged by flooding and powerful winds, most of the corn and soybeans in Iowa are doing just fine. That's the assessment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service report released this week, rating 70 percent of the corn in Iowa in good or excellent condition. The week before the flooding, 71 percent of the crops were called good or excellent.

One corn farmer, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, said Wednesday that "generally, the crops around the state look really good." But the full impact of unprecedented August rainfall is not fully known. "This August is the rainiest August ever in Iowa," he said in a telephone interview with Iowa Independent. "And it looks like we're seeing the third-most precipitation of any month ever in the state of Iowa since they've been keeping records, and we have about 1,600 months that we've been keeping records."

Average rainfall across the state for the month of August so far was 9.65 inches, far above the norm of about 4 inches, said Northey.
"We'll certainly have to wait and see for sure until harvest to see what the damage was," he said. "The visible damage was very localized. But I'm not sure we even know what the impact is to a crop in standing water this late in the season. We know early in the season how if you have standing water very long it'll kill the crop and you've got to re-plant. But this late in the season, it's hard to even know what happens. We'll probably see some stalk rot damage because of the high humidity and warm temperatures."
Some areas of the state, however, can expect to have huge, possibly record-breaking corn harvests. "We have some really good corn in northeast and east-central Iowa," said Northey. "The crop report in August suggested that we could have crop reporting districts over there, in about 10 counties, where they would average 200 bushel. We're not used to those numbers, and it will be interesting to see if that really happens. But as I talk to folks in that area, they are very pleased with their crop. They really feel like they've got a good crop coming."

The rains may have destroyed some crops, but probably saved others. "Although the rains were too much in some cases, they did stop some of the damage that was happening in western Iowa and southern Iowa, where they were really short of rain. In those cases, we were anticipating some losses because of the dry weather, both in corn and soybeans. So it kind of stopped some of that. I think in general we expect a really good crop coming."

The USDA reported in June that across the nation, farmers have planted an estimated 92.9 million acres in corn this year. Iowa leads the nation in acreage dedicated to corn production.
An August USDA crop report projects a whopping 13.1 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year in the nation, and if that holds true, it will be the second-largest corn crop in history. The state of Iowa is expected to produce over 2.5 billion of those bushels of corn.

No comments: