NW, NC Iowa still driest areas
Agricultural Statistic Bureau
March has been a dry month for Iowa despite most of the state getting a small amount of rain for the week of March 19.
Alfalfa and oat seeding, disking, field leveling and applying fertilizer have been the most common activities of late for farmers. With warmer-than-normal weather conditions, green pastures can be seen throughout the state.
Topsoil moisture levels rated 14 percent very short, 35 percent short, 50 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.
Northwest and north central Iowa continue to be the driest areas in the state with 84 percent short to very short.
Grain movement rated 27 percent none, 38 percent light, 29 percent moderate and 6 percent heavy.
Availability of hay and roughage supplies was 15 percent short, 77 percent adequate and 8 percent surplus with 9 percent of the supply in poor condition.
Livestock losses continue to be light due to warm and dry weather for most of the month. Hog and pig losses in March were reported at 35 percent light, 64 percent average and 1 percent heavy.
Cattle and calf losses were similar with 48 percent light, 51 percent average and 1 percent heavy.
Warm weather condition aided calving although muddy lots bothered some areas.
By HARRY HILAKER,
March 2012 will long be remembered for exceptionally mild temperatures.
Preliminary numbers indicate a statewide average temperature of 51.2 degrees, or 15.3 degrees above normal. The month averaged 2.3 degrees warmer than the typical April and 2.5 degrees warmer than the previous warmest March – 48.7 degrees in 1910.
Daily temperatures averaged above normal on all but three days of the month March 3 through March 5.
There were three days at mid month, the 17th through 189th, averaging more than 30 degrees above normal and every day from the 10th through the end of the month averaged at least 10 degrees above normal.
High temperatures reached into the 80s somewhere in the state on 14 days during March, topping off at 90 degrees at Sioux City and Little Sioux on the 31st. Nevertheless there was a little winter-like weather early in the month with daytime highs in the 20s in some areas on the 3rd and 4th while Estherville reported a low temperature of minus 1 degree on the morning of the 5th.
While the mild weather has been fabulous for allowing plenty of early field work, it has raised tremendous concern for the potential of severe frost damage to some horticultural crops which are developing far ahead of the normal pace.
The typical date of the last freeze of the spring is not until mid-April in southern Iowa to early-May across the north.
Meanwhile, precipitation averaged 1.96 inches or 0.19 inch less than normal.
This ranks as the 56th wettest March among 140 years of records. Precipitation was generally above-normal from southwest, through central, into northeast Iowa, but was well below-normal over portions of far northwest and southeast sections.
Monthly precipitation totals varied from 0.63 inch at Hawarden to 5.49 inches at Bedford. There was some snow early in the month with two to four inches over the east one-third of the state on the 2nd and one to three inches on the 4th in a diagonal stripe from northwest to southeast Iowa.
Kanawha, in Hancock County, reported the most snow with 5.5 inches, while most of southwest Iowa saw only a few flurries.
The statewide average snowfall was 1.6 inches, or 3.1 inches less than normal. This ranks as the 13th lowest March snow total among 125 years of records.
Finally, there were isolated occurrences of severe thunderstorms, mostly involving large hail, on the 19th, 29th, 30th and 31st.
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