Notes From the Field: Wednesday morning, June 19 — in the overwhelming flood year of 2019.

Two colleagues and I are driving, northbound, from KC to Omaha on the recently-submerged Interstate 29 due to this historic flood year. Feeling quite a bit more like the Florida Keys than the east bank of the Missouri River, the road that is normally flanked by acres of fields is now nothing more than a causeway. Six hours before we drove across it, the road was covered in water, and now our car is about five feet from the flood’s edge. We drove for more than 20 miles this close to the flooded fields, past land, silos, and entire buildings half-covered with water.

 

My data had already told me that much of these fields would be under water and that the flood would  result in national corn yield loss of 10 bushels per acre from the excess moisture:

 

There is yield lost due to late planting, precipitated by the flood

But there is also yield loss associated with overly saturated fields. Saturated fields can lose yield due to drowned out areas and loss of nitrogen in the soil. As a data scientist, I was of course hoping for confirmation of this virtual data in reality. But I was ill-prepared for the devastating flooding I saw, even as it confirmed my data.

Flooded fields 2019

 

Entire fields are still submerged and waterlogged from the flood.

You can see water for miles across fields that should be waving and green right now. Some will lose almost everything. While the magnitude of the flooding is less than 1993 — the extent is much broader across the corn and soybean belt. (Historic flooding of 1993)

Flooded fields from the air

 

Flying back to KC the next day, the flooding story from the air is no better. Entire sections of fields are giant pools of water.

By the Fourth of July, everyone knows we should be in a far different place, and we are all hoping that as the weather changes, the remaining acres can compensate for those we’ve lost this season. But the sections that are still under water, are lost for the season.

Still, there is hope – as the weather warms and the fields recover. We are a resilient industry, and we will make the most of this season. As we marked the birth of our country this past week and gave thanks for our hard-won freedom, we can also be grateful that Mother Nature is finally conceding, and the Midwest is slowly recovering.

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