Moisture Still Short on Iowa Farms, but Rainfall, Snow Helped

By George Ford, Reporter

Ryan Freese shovels in front of his neighbors house in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, December 20, 2012. Overnight snow brought down tree branches throughout the city. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)


By Katie Stinson

Moisture continues to be an important topic across Iowa, but drought conditions were eased with last month's rain and snow.

The Iowa Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service on Monday reported topsoil moisture levels rated 45 percent very short, 42 percent short and 13 percent adequate as the year came to an end. The driest area of the state was the northwest corner with 59 percent very short, very similar to the area’s condition last winter at this time.

A pair of storms brought most of December’s precipitation and an end to a very dry period that saw a statewide average of just 0.19 inches of precipitation for the five weeks after Veteran’s Day.

The first storm brought rain statewide from late on Dec. 14 to early on Dec. 16 with an average of 0.57 inches falling. The second storm, Dec. 19 through Dec. 20, brought a blizzard to much of the state that downed trees and power lines.

The greatest snow fell from west central into northeast Iowa, with 14.4 inches reported at Dubuque, 13.8 inches at Johnston and 13 inches at Marshalltown and Conrad.

A large percentage of the early December rain was able to soak into the ground and provide a much needed boost to soil moisture. That was especially significant for farmers concerned about how much moisture will be available in the spring when planting begins for the next crop of corn and soybeans.

Hay and roughage supplies were 41 percent short, 57 percent adequate and 2 percent surplus on Dec. 31, with 31 percent of the supply in good condition. Hay prices at auctions in Dyersville and Fort Atkinson have remained above $250 a ton for good quality alfalfa.

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