Spring planting delays, soil erosion among top concerns for Iowa farmers
AMES — With spring flood damage approaching three-billion dollars in Iowa and Nebraska combined, concerns are growing that waterways will again rise beyond their banks with even moderate rainshowers.
Iowa State University Extension agronomist Joel DeJong says the soil remains saturated across much of the state and spring planting will certainly be delayed for many growers. “We’ve got areas where the water seems to just not drain very well,” DeJong says. “Our soil moisture profile is just full right now so any rain we get this spring, a high percentage of it is going to run off, so we have that continued threat as we move forward. And as we get runoff from snowmelt up north, if the reports are accurate, I think we have continued threats.”
Not only is the soil too water-logged to plant, but DeJong says there are many areas where the rich topsoil has been carried away by flooding. “The issue I have concerns about is soil erosion in areas where we had runoff, and secondly, the areas that had flooding. How long before we get dry enough to get back there?” DeJong says. “All acres are probably at risk of being a little late for planting this year but if you’re near a river where you got really saturated, it’s going to be a really long waiting game before we get a good shot at it.”
Even if the waters have receded and the soil might soon be suitable for planting, DeJong says farmers are facing other obstacles, like all the trash, sand, rocks and trees deposited by the high water. “We’ve all seen the pictures of all the flooding and how wide those rivers have been and how long they’ve been there and it’s just amazing the power that comes with it and what it takes with it,” DeJong says. “Of course, the residue is all gone from those acres and then you’ve got stuff that’s deposited on top of it. I’m sure they’re going to have sand deposits and everything else you’ve got to clean up and level out.”
DeJong advises producers not to get too concerned over the wet weather as conditions can change quickly. He says it’s a good idea to get everything ready to go for planting, so it can get done quickly when things do dry out.