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35 percent topsoil very dry

By Staff | Apr 3, 2013


By USDA-National

Agricultural Statistics Service

March saw below-average temperatures for the most part. The additional precipitation was welcomed by most farmers, although with the ground still frozen the beneficial impact of the moisture was marginal.

As March came to a close, topsoil moisture levels rated 35 percent very short, 49 percent short, 16 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

Southeast Iowa had the most moisture, with 39 percent of the land with adequate moisture.

Grain movement rated 43 percent none, 42 percent light, 13 percent moderate and 2 percent heavy.

The availability of hay and roughage supplies fell to 54 percent short, 45 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus, with 27 percent of the remaining supply in good condition.

Livestock conditions have been reported as mostly normal. Hog and pig losses in March were 17 percent light, 81 percent average and 2 percent heavy.

Cattle and calf losses were 14 percent light, 82 percent average and 4 percent heavy. The cold and wet weather in March presented difficulties for ranchers that were calving.



State climatologist

Iowa temperatures averaged 28.5 degrees or 7.4 degrees below normal, while precipitation totaled 2.19 inches, or 0.04 inches above normal.

This ranks as the 17th coldest and 49th wettest March among 141 years of state records. A colder March has not been recorded since 1975.


Cold weather was persistent during March with statewide temperatures being below normal on all but five days – 9/10, 15, 29-30). Elkader recorded the lowest temperature of the month with a -7 degrees report on the morning of March 7 while subzero readings came as late as the 21st at Cresco (-4 degrees).

Cresco’s reading was the latest subzero temperature for the winter season in Iowa since March 26, 1996.

On the other extreme, the temperature reached 70 degrees at Bedford and Lamoni on the 15th and at Shenandoah on the 30th. This month was a huge contrast to the record warm March of last year with a statewide average temperature of 22.6 degrees lower than a year ago.

At Ames, for example, the highest temperature recorded in March 2013 was 60 degrees. Last March, Ames recorded 23 days with highs of 60 degrees or greater during the month.


Much of the month’s precipitation fell during one event from late on March 8 into the morning March 11. Rain fell statewide which transitioned to heavy snow over the northwest one-half of the state.

Mason City reported the most snow with 13.5 inches, while rain totals of more than 2 inches occurred in southeastern Iowa with a maximum amount of 2.58 inches at Donnellson.

Overall this storm brought a statewide average of 1.6 inches of precipitation for the largest storm total since mid-April 2012. There were several other snow events during the month with one on the 4th-5th bringing snow to the eastern two-thirds of Iowa with an 8-inch maximum at the Dubuque Lock and Dam.

Another storm, from the 23rd to 25th, brought snow statewide with greatest amounts in the southeast with 6.7 inches at Donnellson.

Generally, precipitation for the month was well below normal over the southwest one-quarter of the state and slightly above normal elsewhere. Monthly totals varied from 0.68 inches at Red Oak and Shenandoah to 3.62 inches at Burlington.

Snowfall totals varied from only 1.5 inches at Rock Valley to 23.6 inches at Mason City.

Soils were still frozen over most of the northern one-half of the state at month’s end. Thus, little of the March precipitation would have soaked into the ground.

However, abundant runoff did boost the levels of lakes and farm ponds. At Saylorville Reservoir, the lake level had been below the normal conservation pool since Aug. 26, 2012 and reached a record low of 829.26 feet (6.74 feet below normal) on March 8.

However, runoff from the early month storm system quickly brought the lake back to normal levels.

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