Dry weather concerning for farmers, produce growers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dry weather concerning for farmers, produce growers

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Aside from a few stray rain showers, this spring is shaping up to be much drier than usual.  In eastern Iowa, we're averaging over two inches less rainfall.

Add to that less snow melt this winter, and many farm fields and gardens are bone dry.  And there's potential for that to have a major impact on agriculture and ultimately you.

Julie Kiefer keeps busy these days managing Waterloo's new Public Market Co-op.  But away from the store, she works just as hard in the fields and greenhouse, growing lots of crops.

"We grow flowers and herbs and peppers. We also farm sweet corn, green beans, soybeans, pumpkins and squash," Kiefer said.

While it's still early in the growing season, the lack of rain is becoming a concern.

"Optimum rain is about an inch a week and we're nowhere near that," said Kiefer.

The Kiefers do have a commercial irrigation system and will have to fire it up soon if the dry spell continues much longer.  But irrigation is expensive.  So with the dirt this dry, farmers are just hoping Mother Nature sends some moisture.

"The lack of water can cause reduced germination in the seeds that are planted, such that you're not going to get the yield because all of your plants didn't come up the way they should," Kiefer said.

And ultimately, low yields could hurt your pocketbook.

"It could mean more expensive products as well, yes, if there's a shortage," said Kiefer.

The good news is, even with drier than average conditions, the USDA says most of the corn and soybeans in the state are still in good condition.  So with some showers, it could shape up to be a bumper crop.

Farmers aren't the only ones impacted by this dry spell.  Both Waterloo and Cedar Falls report a big jump in water use in the past month, as more of you turn on the sprinklers and hoses to keep lawns and gardens in good shape.

In Waterloo, water use in the past month is up seven percent, while Cedar falls pumped the highest Volume in the past 11 years, 19 percent above the 10-year average.

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