Winter rains can help soil moisture

Will these rare January and February rains of the past few weeks help the depleted soil moisture for farmers for the 2013 crop year?

Mark Licht, field agronomist with Iowa State University Extension, said in some cases where the rain is able to soak into the ground it can help. In other cases, the ground is too frozen to accept the moisture.

“Some rains and snow melt are soaking in and some is not,” Licht said. “It’s hard to pinpoint.”

Soil moisture levels have been extremely low in the state due to last year’s drought. Licht said spring rains are needed to recharge these levels.

“I’m still concerned with the soil moisture recharge,” Licht said. “Right now we are at 5 inches and normally we are at 8 to 9 inches. So we’re short there”

Licht said frozen ponds and pooling of water in the winter can be deceiving. He said in these cases producers may think the soil is saturated when in fact it is too frozen to accept the water.

There is also a concern of low creek beds and river levels. Licht said the recent rains did not have much impact on this concern.

“We’ll have to get repeated rains to get a more steady flow,” Licht said.

Licht said another dry growing season would be devastating as farmers are trying to recover from last year’s drought.

“If we don’t get the rain then we’re really going to be concerned,” he said.

The extension has a section on its website titled “Dealing with Drought” at