April 16, 2013

USDA says rains boosting Iowa soil conditions


OTTUMWA — Last week's rains definitely improved conditions for farmers. Now if they can just get into the fields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop and conditions report showed soil moisture levels rebounding as rains returned to the area. Iowa got plenty of precipitation in February and March, but that mostly arrived before the ground had thawed. This time, it was able to soak in.

In southeast Iowa, 62 percent of the topsoil has adequate moisture, according to the USDA report released Monday afternoon. That's close to the statewide average of 65 percent. Last week the statewide average was only 42 percent.

The gains literally go deeper. Subsoil moisture, which has been slower to rebound, shows marked improvement. Nearly half of southeast Iowa's subsoil now has adequate moisture, well ahead of the statewide average of 29 percent.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker wrote in the report that Oskaloosa and Ottumwa shared in the week's statewide high temperature of 79, hit on Tuesday. Hillaker said the week was the wettest statewide since 2010.

The rain is coming with a price, though. Planting is running far behind previous years.