Reflections on Iowa's 2012 Drought

January 22, 2013
ICM News

By Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Department of Agronomy

Enormous challenges were presented by the 2012 drought. Poor water availability and high temperatures resulted in significant stress during critical phases of corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean (Glycine max L.) development. These stress factors lead to management challenges with insects, diseases and reduced nutrient availability and uptake by plants. The drought triggered soil changes, particularly in conventional tillage systems, such as increased fracturing, crusting and deterioration of soil structure and aggregation. All this reinforced the need for soil conservation planning, especially its necessary role in buffering against unpredictable conditions and the impacts of dry and wet events on production and soil quality.

In 2011, the USDA's National Drought Mitigation Center reported that 43 percent of Iowa experienced moderate-drought conditions and nearly 10 percent experienced severe-drought conditions. And in 2012, 100 percent of Iowa experienced severe-drought conditions, while 65 percent experienced extreme-drought conditions by October. The article in the following link,, addresses several effects of drought on soil and crop production and lessons learned that will help develop appropriate drought mitigation strategies for future soil and crop management practices.

Mahdi Al-Kaisi is a professor in agronomy with research and extension responsibilities in soil management and environmental soil science. He can be reached at or 515-294-8304.


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