When Iowa State University Extension crop specialist Paul Kassel asked Estherville Rotarians Thursday what the significance was of July 14, 2011 was, several people knew.
It was the last time there was an appreciable rainfall.
Since then, a searing drought has reached from the Great Plains into the Cornbelt. And since that date, Britt finds itself 18.2 inches below normal for rainfall. Spencer has fared better at 8.1 inches below normal.
And in Estherville, there was a 5.1-inch rainfall deficit for last summer.
Fortunately, though, Palo Alto, Clay and Kossuth counties have seen some of the best yields in Iowa, said Kassel. East of the Mississippi, crops are in good shape.
Crops last summer drew down deep for subsoil moisture, going as far as six to eight feet.
"That's a testament to the excellent soils we have here in northwest Iowa," said Kassel. "It's kind of miraculous the crop we did have last year."
That moisture now, though, is largely depleted.
"We're really in for far worse conditions," said Kassel.
The Spencer area usually gets about seven inches of moisture from March through May - and we're going to need all of that for a good crop this year.
Kassel noted though that the seasonal 90-day outlook seems to be improving for our area.
In a question-and-answer session that followed, Kassel said water shortages in west-central Iowa are a concern for livestock confinement operators.