The 2012 drought compared to the 1988 drought - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

The 2012 drought compared to the 1988 drought


Ben Riensche has accepted the fact that this year will be no bumper crop. Riensche feels like he's looking at the drought of past years in his rearview mirror.

"Farmers refer to 1988, then to 1956, and then 1936 as the drought years. And the old timers have already said we're past 1988. We're bordering on 1956 if not past it. And now they're starting to compare 2012 to 1936," said Ben Riensche, owner of Blue Diamond Farming Company in Jesup.

1998 was the last major drought that occurred across Iowa. The main comparison is the lack of rain along with extreme heat occurring at once. However, there are some subtle differences.

"The dryness in '88 was, I guess, more concentrated right at the beginning of the growing season. Had a very warm and very dry April, May and June of 1988. This year we certainly were warm as well during those months but not nearly as dry. Generally, the crops got off to a better start this year than they did in 1988, However, on the other hand, the more recent conditions have become much drier than they were on the short term than was the case in 1988," said state climatologist Harry Hillaker. 

Riensche believes the farming technology now may have helped the crops this year hold on better than 1988.

"Farmer's management technique have been improved. We have better tillage systems. We do have better genetics. Farmers are better pest managers. They control the insects better and that's helped this crop to hang on longer," said Riensche.

So far, the state rainfall average for the month of July is only 0.35 inches. In 1988, rainfall returned to normal in August. But even if history repeats itself, it may be too late.

"We're just out of fuel. We need water. There's nothing for the crops to run on," Riensche said.

According to experts, it appears unlikely we will break this weather pattern any time soon. For more information on current drought conditions, check out the US Drought Monitor.

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