Moderate drought not yet a disaster for farmers - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Moderate drought not yet a disaster for farmers

LE MARS, Iowa (KTIV) -

There's been little snow this season, and little rain for the past few months. That has some concerned we might be facing a drought in 2012.

Farm fields normally covered in a layer of snow are dusty, dry, and parched as record setting winter temperatures combine with a lack of rain or snow. But one expert says the dry weather isn't a complete disaster for farmers, at least not yet.

"We run a much higher risk of losing yield next year, if we don't get very timely rains next summer," said Joel DeJong, an agronomist for Iowa State University.

DeJong works as a crop consultant for farmers across the area. He estimates these are levels of dryness not seen in this area in nearly two decades: since the mid-1990s.

"If you have very timely rainfalls and it comes frequently, then we're probably going to be okay. If we get a pretty good recharge this spring and we put moisture into the soil, and maybe more than normal rainfall in the spring, that'd be a real plus," said DeJong.

DeJong says irrigation is minimal around this part of the country, so farmers are pretty much at the mercy of the ever-changing weather.

"The whim is probably more critical of what happens during this next year than it has been in the last several years because we have less spare water in storage," DeJong said.

Even if the rainfall is not above normal levels around Siouxland this spring, the rest of the state's precipitation should keep prices steady in the marketplace.  Because, the truth is Siouxland's lack of moisture, has been the exception, not the rule, this fall in Iowa. 

"Two-thirds of Iowa received well above average rainfall in November and December. And so, the recharge of the soil in much of the state's been pretty good," DeJong said.

By comparison, Iowa's dryness is minimal, compared to much of the South and Southwestern United States. But that is little solace to farmers here.  

DeJong calls it a moderate drought. He says normally at this time of year the soil has about 11 inches of water readily available for plants to use. This year, many areas across Northwest Iowa have only about five inches.

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