Gretchen Schlosser, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn. –
The plentiful rainfall in May and June built up the subsoil moisture profile and that has carried the crop so far into the growing season. Now, as the corn plants enter the critical pollination stage, rain is needed to ensure a good crop to harvest in the fall, the experts say.
“The thing we had going for us is the tremendous amount of rain we had in May and June,” said University of Minnesota Extension crops educator David Nicolai. “We are drawing on that reserve quite extensively.”
The corn planted on heavier, water-retaining soil is still in good condition, but farmers would feel much better about their crop with an inch or two of rain, he said.
“We need some more rain here in the next two weeks,” Nicolai said. “It’s critical.”
The U.S Drought Monitor data released Thursday show that Minnesota and Iowa both are experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, but are faring better than other major corn-producing states. The moderate drought conditions are in the northwestern part of Minnesota and in the central to eastern portions of Iowa.
Meanwhile, there is severe to extreme drought in portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Those drought conditions were reflected in Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture national crop condition report. A total of 82 percent of Minnesota’s corn was in good or excellent condition. However, those statistics reflect crop conditions before the week-long heat wave.
Iowa’s crop was rated as 62 percent good to excellent and the drought-stricken states of Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri had 56, 26, 19, 33 and 18 percent of their corn crops rated as good or excellent. Nationally, only 48 percent of the nation’s corn crop is rated as good to excellent.
“We are doing better than southern Illinois and the non-irrigated part of Nebraska,” according to Bruce Potter, integrated pest management specialist at Extension’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton. Both of those areas are in severe to extreme drought conditions.
However, the crop conditions vary widely by latitude, with crops along the Interstate 90 corridor and the Iowa border doing better because of more recent rainfall, but an area along U.S. Highway 14 in the Lamberton and New Ulm areas is experiencing drier conditions, plus other areas that were struck by hail in late June.
“Along I-90, they got more rain and things look fantastic,” Potter said. “There are areas that missed the rain and are drying out, and about everything in between.”