Drought of 2017-18
Lucas county, Iowa
Lucas County, much like the rest of southern Iowa, was hit by a drought in 2017 that lasted through the following summer. Chariton, the county seat, was just one of the many places in Lucas that was dealing with the repercussions of the drought.
Agriculture Specialist Brad Evans noted the impact the drought had on the county’s cattle. “It could affect prices that consumers see at a grocery store, not short term, maybe long term if through this summer our numbers really hurt and we’re down on cattle numbers again. Then, that’s gonna drive the price of beef up as the supply is limited.”
The drought does not just affect the pastures where the cattle graze; it affects the cows themselves. Evans said, “Some of our numbers were really significantly down from what they’ve been in the past, and a lot of that’s due to the high heat. The cattle suffer heat stress, and just elevated body temperatures affects them as much as it does the crops.” June and July of 2017 had multiple 90-degree days often nearing 100 degrees. The average temperature during this period is 83-85 degrees.
A relatively dry winter made the drought continue throughout 2018, while there was a glimmer of hope during springtime rains. Farmer Kevin Luedtke captured the mood of the Chariton community, “Everything looked so good early that us and a lot of neighbors you’d hear people say ‘it looks so good something’s gotta go wrong.’”
Luedtke continued “Beans and corn just had enough moisture to kind of get by ‘till around the first of July and then we just totally ran out of moisture.” By July 2018, Chariton had only received 1.23 inches of rain, down from the nearly 5 inches that usually occur in July. The previous July was even worse with only 0.3 inches of rain.
“These look kinda bad, but when you start shelling these kernels off and realize how that’s almost all cob and hardly any kernels, it’s way worse than you first imagined,” said Luedtke. Late September rain offered some hope for the coming growing season, with this year’s corn too damaged to benefit. “Doesn’t really matter what we hope for, we get what we get I imagine” Luedtke said.
Sources: Ben Oldach, “Rain Comes Too Little, Too Late for Southeastern Iowa Farmers,” 13whotv, 2018; Michael Dasilva, “Impact of Severe Drought Being Felt in Southern Iowa,” 13whotv, 2017; “Extreme Drought Expands in Southern Iowa,” National Weather Service, 2018; “Chariton, Iowa,” U.S. climate data, 2017, 2018.