The Ottumwa Courier

July 24, 2013

Dry weather not a worry -- yet

By MATT MILNER
Ottumwa Courier

---- — BATAVIA — Drought conditions have crept back into Iowa, but Colin Johnson of Batavia says it's not quite time to get worried about rainfall.

Iowa had the wettest spring on record this year, but southeast Iowa has seen Mother Nature turn off the tap in June and July. June precipitation was 2.7 inches below normal, worse than in 2012, and July rainfall is below normal as well.

Johnson farms several crops, including corn and soybeans. He does enough forage as well to be on the Iowa Hay Producers Directory. So far this year, alfalfa is his star crop.

“The second cutting of alfalfa is really good. Phenomenal,” he said. “Excellent quality.”

The spring rains held the first cutting back a bit, Johnson explained, but the second cutting got rain at the right time and then the drier weather that it likes. The result was a surprisingly strong crop.

The same can't be said of grass, though.

“The grass conditions, pasture grass and forage grass … I'm a little skeptical and doubtful that we're going to get a second cutting.”

Conditions for other crops vary.

“Our corn crop, some of it got in in a very timely fashion at the beginning of April,” said Johnson. That started producing sweet corn for sale last week, exactly 30 days later than in 2012.

Johnson's biggest concern right now is temperature rather than rain.

There's still enough moisture in the ground that the crops are holding their own. High temperatures will hurt in two ways, though. The heat itself is bad for development if it gets above about 90 degrees. And high temperatures suck moisture right out of the ground, exacerbating dry conditions.

“A week ago, when it was up in the 90s, that was putting a little bit of stress on crops,” Johnson said.

That worry is taken care of, at least in the short term. Forecasts for the next week put daily highs in the 70s and lower 80s. And, statistically, temperatures should start falling from this point on.

Now, if we could just get normal rainfall to come back.