Dealing with severe drought in west-central Iowa
Farmers in central and west-central Iowa have been dealing with severe drought this summer.
Greg Jensen, who farms near Hamlin, Iowa, says it’s the worst drought he’s seen in his 45 years of farming—even worse than 2012.
“In 2012, we got lucky in our area. We were dry, but it wasn’t too bad for us. But I’d have to say this is probably the worst I’ve ever had farming,” Jensen says. “We haven’t had a rain over a half-inch all spring and summer. It’s very disappointing, because the crops looked really good early. They looked good until probably the last couple weeks and now they’re showing signs of deterioration.”
Jensen, who feeds cattle, says he’ll be chopping twice as much silage as he usually does.
Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomist Mike Witt says, while the corn is still green, the issue is ear development.
“The ear will start to get smaller. You’ll get less kernels around and you will also start to get tip back,” Witt says. “Another thing people will notice when they look in their fields is how fast the crop is maturing—looking at ears and there could be some that are denting already, which is far too soon to be doing that.”
Pastures are also deteriorating quickly. ISU Extension beef specialist Erika Lundy says supplemental feeding is already underway.
“A lot of our producers have been seeing some stress in their pastures and that lack of forage productivity,” Lundy says. “So they have been supplementing cows with some hay or grain on those pastures for a couple of weeks now, in some cases.”
Lundy says the hay fields are also hurting.
“In this area, in particular, our second cutting was pretty thin this year. Now is about the time when we would start really gearing up for third cutting and it’s just not there. Some fields look better than others but there’s really not much growth there yet.”
Jensen, Witt and Lundy spoke with Brownfield Tuesday at a drought meeting in Audubon, Iowa. We also discussed crop insurance with ISU Extension farm management specialist Patrick Hatting.