Farmers are concerned about dry soil heading into planting season

CLARION — As spring nears, farmers are starting to worry again about moisture levels, because the latest U-S Drought Monitor map for Iowa shows almost a fifth of the state is in extreme drought, with more than half of Iowa in severe drought.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field agronomist Angie Rieck-Hinz says it’s been 190-some straight weeks of drought for the state and planting season is just a few weeks away. “We hope we get some more rain before we get in the field, definitely, but if we don’t, we’re going to really need some very timely rains throughout this growing season to keep enough water supplied to those crops,” Rieck-Hinz says. “We just don’t have a whole lot in our soil right now or subsoil that those plants can draw from.”

Even with several heavy snows in January, now February is wrapping up warmer and drier than normal, which is worrisome for farmers. “They’re concerned. They know they can’t do a whole lot about it. If anything, farmers are always hopeful about moisture,” Rieck-Hinz says. “There might be some ways we can manage that going into spring. We can think about if we can actually go in and plant without having to do any tillage that would dry out soils even more.”

Forecasters say there’s a chance for a mix of rain and snow this week, but it likely won’t be significant enough to make a dent in the drought. “We should probably think about if we have cover crops out there, if we want to terminate them a little bit earlier than usual,” she says, “so we’re not pulling as much moisture out of the soil. That’s something to think about.”

March 19th is the first day of spring.