AMES, Iowa — Row-crop and livestock farmers aren’t the only ones trying to overcome the perils of spring flooding in Iowa.
The catastrophic events of 2019 are also affecting vegetable and specialty crop growers, with the possibility that floodwaters may have moved chemical and biological contaminants into the fields where vegetables are grown.
In the May edition of the Acreage Living Newsletter, Ajay Nair, associate professor and extension vegetable production specialist with Iowa State University, talks about what specialty crop growers should know, and what they should do to keep humans and animals safe.
Even though vegetable crops were not yet planted when the floods came, Nair said the contaminants and the damage from flooding could last into the summer.
As things normalize this year, fields that have become compacted and deprived of pore spaces can possibly be remedied with tillage. If prolonged rains keep soil moisture more toward the wetter side of the spectrum, growers may consider foliar feeding nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to give plants an additional boost during the stressed period.
The biggest issue, according to Nair, is biological contamination, which can include bacteria, parasites and viruses that originate from upstream farms, rural septic systems, overflow from industrial sewage systems and raw manure or feces.
Although tillage and improved weather can help alleviate flooding-related issues, growers also need to think about how deep and for how long the flooding persisted.
“The Food and Drug Administration recommends not replanting in flooded fields if floodwaters have not receded and the soil has not sufficiently dried,” Nair said.
While the FDA has not determined a safe waiting time, state, industry and university extension specialists recommend a 30- to 60-day waiting period, and soil testing, prior to planting.
Another option is for growers to seed a cover crop in flood-damaged fields, which may lead to not planting a spring crop, but offers a safe passage to plant a summer or a fall vegetable crop.
Other articles in this month’s edition include the “2018 Farmland Value Survey,” which shows that the average value of quality farmland in Iowa is $7,264, down $62 an acre from 2017, and the fourth year for a decline in the past five years.
Acreage Living Newsletter is published every two months and is available online.
— Ajay Nair, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
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