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I-35 Crop Tour: Minnesota to Iowa

On the route back to Des Moines from Minneapolis midweek, I stopped a few times to check out the crops. Southern Minnesota and northern Iowa farmers have faced challenging weather throughout the growing season. It shows.

Planting season was cool and wet across the Corn Belt.

In Minnesota, south and west of the Twin Cities, close to 8 inches of precipitation above average was recorded during the planting season.

Precipitation departure from April 15, 2019 to June 1, 2019 in Minnesota
Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Minnesota State Agricultture Commissioner Petersen says, “Minnesota’s farmers have faced some very difficult weather challenges this year, from late-spring blizzards to wind storms to chronic flooding. This has certainly added to other price and trade issues already existing in the industry. However, state and federal safety nets have been put in place for this very reason. These available programs may not make farmers whole for the losses they’ve endured, but they are designed to get producers through to better times. Weather is one of the constant risks in farming, and we hope for better days ahead.”

The excessive spring rains weren’t as severe in northern Iowa, but still, several inches above average was recorded along my I-35 route.

Precip-Departure-April15-June1-Iowa
Iowa Environmental Mesonet

The first time I pulled off I-35S was just west of Dundas, Minnesota, in Rice County. Immediately off the interstate, to my left was a freshly planted field. To the right, cover crops were beginning to emerge.

A farmer from the area, Matt Braun, replied to confirm many farmers took prevent plant in that part of the state.

Farther south in Steele County, I pulled off near Clinton Falls, Minnesota. Several unplanted fields had an abundance of volunteer corn and maturing weeds. From the road I did spot a handful of nice, uniform fields of tassled corn.

My next stop was outside Owatonna, Minnesota. Two fields close to the interstate had huge washouts, but there was no safe place to pull over to take a picture. Less than a mile south of the washouts I took the photos below. The field was varied in height and color. No tassles in sight.

On the other side of the road, corn was tassling, but short and uneven. Evidence that Minnesota is behind in growing degree days is not hard to find, but the Iowa Environmental Mesonet map shows the details by county.

Minnesota Growing Degree Day Departure from April 15, 2019 to July 31, 2019
Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Construction prevented stops in Worth and Cerro Gordo counties once I made it to Iowa. But from the road the crops looked relatively healthy, yet behind. Crops would be great if it were the 4th of July, but the crops haven’t seen the growing degree days needed to catch up from late planting. I could see lots of bare soil between bean rows.

Iowa-GDD-Departure-April15-July31
Iowa Environmental Mesonet

My final detour stop was Highway 3 near Hampton, Iowa. Several fields looked good, but were beginning to show signs they needed precipitation. Signs of a difficult planting season were still clear. Many fields had washed out areas, or portions that were never planted due to wet conditions.

Just one county over, in Butler and Grudy Counties, the U.S. Drought monitor indicates abnormally dry conditions.

Iowa-Drought-Monitor-July2019
National Drought Mitigation Center

In a press statement following Monday's Crop Progress Report, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig explained, “Corn development is in various stages. The earliest planted corn is almost done pollinating, while some fields that were delayed because of wet spring conditions are just starting to tassel.”

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