Each week during the growing season we contact farmers around the state to get a spot check on the progress of corn, soybeans and other crops. It’s a good way to keep our members informed.   But last week we got a much wider look at the state’s crops from one of our crop reporters, Brian Sampson. He spent the week on RAGBRAI, checking Iowa’s crops from his bicycle seat.

Sampson, who farms near Roland, was on his 16th RAGBRAI. On his 471-mile ride from Sioux Center to Clinton, Sampson saw first- hand the extent of damage caused by drought and extreme heat. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Right now the drought is showing up all over the state, especially in corn fields, Sampson noted.  “There are some pockets where the corn looks OK, but they are pretty small compared to the areas which are really showing stress,” Sampson said July 30.  From news reports, the Story County farmer thought he might see much better corn fields in western Iowa, where rains have been more frequent. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. “There is a lot of stress everywhere.  And I saw a lot of fields that were so far gone, I don’t know if rain is even going to help.”

Soybean fields look greener and appear to be holding up better in the extreme summer conditions. But, Sampson said, it might just be that soybeans are better at masking the drought stress than corn is.

Sampson and the thousands of other RAGBRAI riders rode in triple-digit temperatures and only encountered one significant storm, the overnight stop in Marshalltown on July 25. “I never wanted rain on RAGBRAI before, but I did this year,” he said.

We’ll soon get some estimates from the government and other sources on the extent of crop damage in Iowa. And it won’t be long before farmers get a better look when they pull their combines out of the shed and start harvesting. And as Brian Sampson’s bike seat survey shows, it is shaping up to be tough harvest season all over Iowa.

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.