Drought concerns continue as growing season nears

As this winter can attest, the weather can very hard to predict.

That will be the case for the 2013 crop year it seems. Two experts reported two different outlooks for the year during a seminar at the Iowa State University Extension office sponsored by the Marshall County Farm Bureau Monday.

Even amid the possibility of the drought to continue, Steve Johnson, of ISU Extension, said the USDA is projecting a huge corn crop for 2013, which could push the cash corn prices down two dollars to $4.80. Johnson said the USDA report is very bearish, and the odds are very slim that corn would get down that low.

Last year’s drought coupled with soaring corn prices has left the old crop corn scarce, and he said there’s a chance in August that Iowa will be getting corn from Arkansas to help run ethanol plants and feedlots before the local crop is harvested.

“They are going to be desperate for corn in August,” Johnson said.

Also speaking at the event was extension agronomist Mark Licht, who dug deeper into the drought conditions. He said even with the snowy conditions this winter, soil moisture is a concern heading into the growing season. He said right now there is 6 inches of soil moisture when corn roots need 12 to 20 inches.

“We just don’t have a lot of moisture there,” Licht said.

Licht talked about history’s worse droughts and said it usually takes at least 14 months to recover fully in soil moisture levels.

“We’ve heard the saying that droughts have long tails,” Licht said.

One of the ways to try to keep as much soil moisture in fields is to continue to leave the crop residue as long as possible and hold off tilling, he said. That’s probably not an issue right now as the weather is not like it was last year at this time – reaching 80 degrees.

“One year ago it wasn’t uncommon to see fields cultivated out there,” Licht said.

With last year’s drought conditions, Johnson said it proved that revenue protection crop insurance does work. He said even through the tough crop conditions farms survived the worst drought in more than 50 years due to insurance.

“How many of them sold out, broke?” he said.