Johnson County growers discuss tackling drought conditions

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Farmers and food organizations talk about the recent drought struggles on their land and the means they have taken to tackle the lack of rain in the region.

Jeff sigmund

Corn husks turn brown due to lack of rain on Monday June 21, 2021. A field planted with corn is beginning to show the effects of lack of rain. The leaves turn brown and the stems are short.


Steve Swenka, owner of Double G Angus Farms in Johnson County, said this summer his farm had experienced one of the worst droughts of his life.

“We’ve only had about two inches of rain throughout May and only two-tenths of an inch in June so far,” Swenka said on June 22, before Johnson County suffered. several showers over the next few days. “We have cow pastures burning, the streams narrow down to the bed and you see corn in the middle of the hot day starting to curl up. “

The National Integrated Drought Information System, last updated on June 24, said Johnson County drought state is “abnormally dry” and is listed with a participation last 30 days rate.

In the United States, 181.5 million acres of crops and 14.4 million beef cattle are currently experiencing drought, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Jake Kundert, director of food systems for Grow Johnson County, an Iowa Valley nonprofit, said he had also felt the impact of the drought on their produce.

Grow Johnson County produces over 25,000 pounds of organic vegetables each year and donates them to local hunger relief agencies.

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“Everything we grow is given,” Kundert said. “We give jobs on the farm and teach people how to do these techniques themselves. “

Kundert said food organizations, like Grow Johnson County, have struggled to counter this recent struggle to grow crops.

For Grow Johnson County, they worked to irrigate as much as possible until they saw more rain.

“The challenge is to put our crops that have been inside the garden centers, which are in perfect conditions, and then take them out into the hot, dry sun. Plants die, ”Kundert said.

Kundert said Grow Johnson County is trying new sprinkler systems that can hold water more efficiently, such as a no-till production method, and adapt to the Iowa climate.

If water is not immediately given to plants from streams and irrigation systems, then they will have less volume and maybe not even the same crop.

Buyers of these crops have seen less and less volume of production since the lack of rain hit them.

“Some growers I know couldn’t name many because the weather conditions affected it and they couldn’t install a water supply system at the plant,” Ben Dolan said. , a Field to Family worker.

This company buys crops from other producers for resale.

Farmers must continue to adapt and overcome obstacles like climate change.

As soon as Grow Johnson County finished replanting the crops in the outdoor soil, Kundert said Grow Johnson County staff were doing everything in their power to water them.

“Once we’ve planted them, we think about what water and irrigation system we can use to give these plants the water they need,” Kundert said.

Swenka said he was unable to set up irrigation systems at the last minute. Its first objective is to take care of the cattle.

“We are pumping as much water as possible out of the stream to water the burning cow pastures,” Swenka said. “The first goal is to get food for the summer, the second goal is to get food for the winter. “

Swenka kept saying that farmers are a resilient group.

“We are overcoming and always adapting to new things every year, it’s about managing risk and resources,” Swenka said.

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