Drought 2017 and 2018
Marion county, Iowa
Like much of southern Iowa, Marion County experienced severe drought in 2017 and 2018.
“North of 92 is gonna be a fair crop, not a great crop,” said farmer Jamie Devin, whose farm is located in far south of Iowa.
“The further south of 92 you get, from Knoxville to south of Chariton, it’s terrible,” Devin said. “It doesn’t feel very good.”
Dale Miller, program director of the Iowa State University Extension office of Marion County, commented, “It’s one of the worst drought years I can remember.” Miller continued, “Rain can be fickle, not just with when, but where it falls.” “Some farmers might being doing fine, and their neighbors might be hurting.”
Rebecca Vittetoe, an Iowa State agronomist, agreed. “This weather is so hard on crops. In some cases, folks might be surprised, but overall, we’re looking at a hard year.”
Miller estimated the 2017 corn crops to be yields of 15 to 40 bushels below normal for Marion County farmers, while soybean estimates were 10 to 20 bushels below average.
Farmers held out hope for an August rain to save the soybean crops; it never came.
Harry Hillaker, the state climatologist, noted the summer started with average rainfall. By July, the story shifted. Knoxville only received 2.17 inches of rain between July and August – eight inches below average. “Knoxville is on the northern edge of the driest part of the state,” Hillaker said. “It’s hard for soil to get any drier right now.”
Devin notes the community of farmers that lean on each other in times of trouble. “We’re a coffee shop in motion,” he said. “We’re always talking to each other about how our crops look. We all complain about the weather and the markets. It’s kind of a therapy session.”
As the seasons changed, the hopes of snowfall relieving the drought diminished. Mike Finarty, a Knoxville farmer, said a late January warm-up melted the small amount of snow the town had accumulated that winter.
“Unfortunately, we’re dry. And I think that’s a worry on every producers’ mind, from the row crop producer to the cattle producer because we all rely on that weather and that moisture. So, it’s a worry.”
Finarty, like much of Marion County, had a hard summer. “I was in the drought area, and I also got hit by hail, so I got a double-whammy. So, 2017 was not a good year for me.”
By late August 2018, the drought finally started to recede. Three to seven inches of rain covered Marion County between August 28th and September 7th, returning Marion County to more normal conditions.
Sources: on-line: Pat Finan, “Drought spells bleak forecast for harvest,” Journal Express, 2017; “Extreme Drought Spreads Throughout most of Marion County,” KNIA – KRLS, 2017; Mark Dorenkamp, “Open Winter Increasing Drought Concerns for Parts of Iowa,” Brownfield: AG News for America, 2018; “Drought Conditions Eliminated in Marion County, Most of Region,” KNIA-KRLS, 2018.