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Aftermath of the hail

By Staff | Aug 21, 2009

Approximately 60 farmers, seed dealers and agronomists gathered at a farm northwest of Yetter Thursday to hear Iowa State University Extension field specialist Mark Licht assess the aftermath of the recent hail damage that destroyed crops in the region.

YETTER – When nearly 60 farmers, seed company representatives and agronomists gathered at a farm northwest of Yetter recently to get an update on the area’s hail damage, everyone compared notes about the extent of the damage to their corn and soybean fields. Meanwhile, more thunderclouds rolled in from the northwest.

“The crop is looking tougher every day,” said Mike Bachman, who farms several miles north of Auburn.

Fields around the counties of Sac and Calhoun with damaged plants have been turning brown ever since the violent Aug. 9 storm hit. Mold is quickly spreading on damaged corn kernels.

Conditions won’t get better, especially with the warm summer weather, said Mark Licht, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist, who led the hail damage meeting.

“This is not a good situation and it’s the most severe, widespread damage I’ve seen,” Licht said. “A colleague told me that this kind of hail is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, and I hope that’s right.”

Challenges lie ahead

If corn plants are 50 to 80 percent defoliated, they can still reach maturity, although lighter test weights will result. More types of mold and heat rot are also likely, said Licht, who urged growers to pay extra attention to their combine settings this fall.

“Since a corn plant is programmed to fill the ear, more cannibalism can occur within the plant when there is less leaf area,” he said. “This makes stalk rot likely.”

While it’s important to let the corn crop dry down in the field as long as possible, hot, dry weather also increases the risk of aflatoxin. If the weather turns cooler and wetter, mycotoxins can thrive, said Licht, who noted that corn ears he examined at the Yetter field meeting appeared to show signs of fusarium. “The more ear damage you have, the more grain quality problems you’ll have.”

Getting damaged grain dried down and cooled as quickly as possible will be important this fall. Also remember, Licht added, that lighter test weight corn and damaged grain doesn’t store well. “It’s not so good on the propane side, but you may need to take the corn out of the field at 18 percent moisture and dry it down to 14 or 15 percent,” Licht said.

Assessing bean damage

Hail-damaged soybean plants pose their own set of challenges, and it’s very difficult to estimate yield losses in soybeans, Licht said. Even if they weren’t chopped off, many plants will face complications since the strong winds bent the stems. This will also make it very hard to combine the remaining crop.

“The stems are so battered that when you split them open, you can already see damage into the pith,” added Licht, who noted that soybean fields that were once waist high are now only a foot tall. “If we get even a slight wind, the stems could break off at these weak points.”

One of the few options for a soybean crop that’s severely damaged is to seed oats into the field, Licht said. The oats will get some good height on them, and the crop can be baled.

Crop insuranc’s role

Hail and wind damage are insurable losses under multiple peril crop insurance policies, said William Edwards, ISU Extension farm business management specialist. Add-on hail insurance policies will be settled based on the estimated crop loss.

Revenue insurance policies will be settled based on actual harvested yields over the entire insurance unit (if the crop is not declared a complete loss) and the average futures price at harvest.

In the aftermath of a damaging storm, producers should alert their crop insurance agents as soon as possible, and inform them of the date and exact location of the damage. The agent will notify a certified crop adjustor to appraise the insured crops.

Keep in mind, Edwards added, that when damage is widespread, adjustors cannot be everywhere at once. Taking photos of the damaged crops soon after the hailstorm is useful.

A new crop disaster program called Supplemental Revenue Assistance is available under the 2009 farm bill. Additional coverage above and beyond multiple peril crop insurance may be available, Edwards said.

Payments are based on the same yield information as crop insurance policies, so no additional production records are needed. Losses are averaged over the entire farming operation, though, so isolated damage may not be enough to trigger a payment if other farms and crops are not affected.

Disaster recovery

For more information on dealing with hail-damaged crops, log onto ISU Extension’s Web site at www.extension.iastate.edu/disasterrecovery.

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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