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Rare Storm Causes Heartbreak for Iowa Corn Farmers

Hopes of a record crop have been wrecked
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 13, 2020 2:40 AM CDT
Derecho Wrecks Hopes of a Record Corn Crop
The path of a possible tornado is evident in a cornfield after a powerful storm on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Wakarusa, Ind.   (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Farmers across a wide swath of Iowa are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a rare wind storm that turned what was looking like a record corn crop into deep losses for many. The storm, known as a derecho, slammed the Midwest with straight line winds of up to 100 miles per hour on Monday, gaining strength as it plowed through Iowa farm fields, flattening corn and bursting grain bins still filled with tens of millions of bushels of last year’s harvest. Farms in Illinois and Indiana also reported crop and property damage, but not to the extent seen in Iowa. Before the storm hit, the US Department of Agriculture had been expecting a record national corn crop this year of 15.3 billion bushels harvested from about 84 million acres, the AP reports. Iowa was to provide about 18% of that production. Iowa’s crop was valued at about $9.81 billion in 2019.

Western Iowa has been declared an extreme drought zone and corn plants there were already weakened due to a lack of moisture. Those fields are likely a loss, officials say. According to a USDA report dated Aug. 1, farmers in much of central and eastern Iowa had been expecting near-record yields with healthy plants that could bounce back. For now, much depends on whether the plants snapped off or were just bent over by wind. "There’s a lot more breakage or pinching of stalks than I thought there was now that I’ve been out and looked at more of it. That, of course, essentially has killed the plant," says Meaghan Anderson, an Iowa State University extension agronomist who works with farmers in nine central Iowa counties.

(More Iowa stories.)

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