Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

Weather’s influence on crops positive, expert says

Jun 29, 2018

By Gretchen Teske, The JOURNAL

 

From sudden heat to sudden cold, southern Iowa is experiencing a variety of weather this spring but crops field specialist Virgil Schmitt of the Iowa State Extension office says there’s nothing to worry about.

“We’re still looking at warm enough temperatures that it’s really not going to be much of an issue,” he says. “The swings we’ve had should not be detrimental, if they’re detrimental at all.”

Because the temperature change is less than drastic, the crops will retain few long-term effects. He says that if the temperatures were to swing from 95 to 45, a serious issue could arise but the sudden cold front on behalf of the sudden rainfall is not worrisome.

The rainfall, in fact, is quite a benefit to soil which has been dry due to last year’s drought. The topsoil stayed moist but further down the soil was suffering because there was not enough rain to keep it moist.

Currently, the crops have been surviving off rainfall from mid-September. Due to the early dry spell, a large portion of that water was used. As the heat wears on, crops will begin using up to an inch of water a week. Schmitt says some crops were starting to experience moisture stress from lack of ability to access water due to the heat.

“In a normal year we do not get enough rainfall in July and August to sustain the crops,” he says. “We rely on May and June to fill the soil up with water to carry us through those shortages in July and August.”

Precipitation levels in the latter part of spring are heavily relied upon because they are needed to sustain crops through mid-September as rainfall begins to slow as the year progresses.

The rainfall outlook provided by the National Weather Service seems to be above average and will help growth. An average rainfall for May is 4.85 inches and 4.47 for June. “Those, I think, are things that maybe lend you a little bit of optimism,” he says.

In general, Schmitt says roots go about five-feet deep so there needs to be enough precipitation to be full. Excluding sandy soil, most can hold around 2.3 inches of water per foot and with 11.5 needed to fill.

The temperatures may not be ideal for people but Schmitt says they are ideal for crops. He says May and June need to have above-average temperatures with July and August slightly below so crops can grow above ground quickly, then have time to pollinate in time for harvest. “We’ve definitely got May and June under control but the projections are that July will continue to have above-average temperatures, and that’s worrisome,” he says.

Excess heat leaves little time for plants to pollinate which does not affect nutritional value, but maturity and volume.

Humans aren’t the only ones suffering as hay and pasture lands have also been affected by the drought.

“Those were the areas that were probably in the most dire straits,” he says. “This rainfall is going to really help to bring those back.” He said cattle producers were beginning to worry about how they would feed their cattle, but the projected rainfall will help. “It’s going to be very welcome for that (reason),” he says.

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