Iowa faces back-to-back blows to food crops thanks to derecho and worsening drought

Sunday, August 30, 2020
By Paul Martin

by: Virgilio Marin
Sunday, August 30, 2020

Iowa farmers suffer back-to-back blows after a dramatic drought hits the state following the August 10 derecho. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) reported that about 60 percent of Iowa is currently affected by drought while almost the entire state is dry.

West-central Iowa is experiencing the most extreme drought among all divisions of the state. Precipitation levels in the area dipped from last year’s levels. Some counties recorded upwards of 10 or more inches less of rain.

Water quality has also been worsening in the Des Moines River, with authorities detecting high concentrations of toxic aquatic microbes. The river is one of the back-up sources of drinking water in central Iowa.

Farmers bemoaned that with the drought, they’d have to contend with poor irrigation while trying to recover from the losses brought by the derecho.

Drought hits Iowa

Iowa was hit by a strong and long-lasting line of thunderstorms that generated hurricane-force winds and hail. The derecho blasted and flattened crops and caused 4 billion dollars’ worth of damages. Several counties were affected including Benton, Linn, Jones, Cedar and Clinton County.

A few days after the derecho, drought started spreading in the state. Residents previously experienced a dry July, with 63 percent of Iowa listed as being abnormally dry by the USDM. At the end of this month, dry conditions have spread to about 97 percent.
Over the past week, temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees, baking corn and soybean fields that were already damaged by the derecho. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that at least 60 percent of Iowa is in some kind of drought. The USDM classifies drought and dry conditions according to a five-point scale:

D0 – abnormally dry
D1 – moderate drought
D2 – severe drought
D3 – extreme drought
D4 – exceptional drought

According to the USDA, 34 counties are in severe drought, up from 29 one week ago. Thirteen west-central counties are in extreme drought over the past three weeks.

Recent data from the NWS in Des Moines compared precipitation levels between 2019 and 2020 in west-central Iowa. Three counties in extreme drought – Audubon, Carroll and Guthrie Center County – received 10 inches less rain on average. Atlantic County, classified under severe drought, recorded the biggest drop in precipitation level at 16 inches.


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