Central Iowa farm flooding
Central Iowa farm flooding
Those of us who farm in central Iowa have been feeling awfully lucky this spring. We’ve had a few weather setbacks, but nothing like much of the state experienced last year or like farmers in the Dakotas, Indiana and Ohio are experiencing this year.
But my immediate area just southeast of Des Moines, Iowa, was tested between Wednesday night and early Friday morning. From Wednesday evening until 8 p.m. Thursday evening, one of my farms received 3.6 inches of rain. That’s too much, but manageable. Then Wednesday night it received another five inches bringing the total to 8.6 inches in 36 hours.
Survey the damage
Friday morning I set out to survey the damage. But even checking fields was a challenge, as many roads were flooded. My own fields, however, are all on high ground and I knew they wouldn’t be flooded. I was more apprehensive about erosion.
This 180-acre farm actually drains in four directions. It has some slopes but is classified non highly erodible. It has tile, terraces and waterways, plus it’s been in a rotation of no-till soybeans and strip-till corn for 20 years. That waterway is a little too narrow and needs to be reshaped on the left side. But I can only imagine how much water came down through that draw for it to flatten the corn on both sides of the waterway. I think (hope) that corn will straighten up.
I’ve put in 12 terraces on this farm over the past 20 years. However, I have rarely seen water backed-up above any of them and I have never had to clean one out.
I have a classic love/hate relationship with terraces. When we get a deluge like this one, I’m glad they are there. Really glad. When I am planting or spraying, I wish they weren’t there. And I really hate trying to control ragweed and late-emerging sunflowers between the crop and the terrace.
This photo was take from the road well below the terrace shown in the previous photo. The terrace wasn’t breached, so the water that gushed down the draw had to come from the slopes to the left and the right.
Terraces and no-till
I was gratified to see just how well the combination of terraces and no-till had held most of the soil in place. And only four hours after the 8.6-inch rain had stopped, I was able to walk across this bean field to take photos. I did get a pair of good shoes and dress slacks muddy enough that I had to go home and change before heading to the office, however.
Fawn in flood
A half-mile from where I live on the edge of Carlisle, I encountered this fawn. He was having a worse morning than I was. He’d been swimming behind his mother across a flooded field when he lost his nerve and turned around. Before reaching the bike trail, he was temporarily caught in a woven wire fence. I had just about decided I was going to have to wade in and free him when, luckily for me, he broke free. I hope his mother came back for him.
Those of us who farm in central Iowa have been feeling awfully lucky this spring.