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Multi-weather perils harass crops

By Staff | Jul 11, 2014

GREG JOCHUM inspects one of his flooded corn fields in Woodbury County. The Little Sioux River inundated his fields, damaging a majority of his 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans. Jochum said his corn was near tasseling when the fields were flooded.

SALIX – Greg Jochum was attempting to remain optimistic as he observed his fields near Salix last week.

“We can control 90 percent of we do,” Jochum said of crop management, “but the 10 percent we can’t control is the weather.”

Observing one of his several Woodbury County corn fields covered with water after the west fork of the Little Sioux River flooded its banks, Jochum pointed to the water-filled roadside ditches emphasizing the severity of the situation.

“Of course, there’s always next year,” he said.

Having met earlier in the day with his insurance adjuster on July 2, Jochum was ready to accept the reality of the flood damage to the majority of his 4,000 acres crops on flat land in the wake of 18 to 19 inches of June rainfall in a relatively short period of time.

GREG JOCHUM, who farms near Salix, in southern Woodbury County, said, the majority of his 4,000 acres of cropland were affected by the flooding. Hail and straight-line winds of up to 60 to 70 mph caused additional crop loss.

Jochum said he planted early and had just finished side-dressing fields before June’s seven-inch rainfall.

In some cases, the corn was within days of tasseling.

“All that was left to do was the harvesting,” he said. “And then Mother Nature stepped in.”

What flood waters couldn’t do to the corn, 60- and 70-mile-per-hour winds resulted in 15 to 25 percent green snap and bruising.

Adjacent soybean fields, also felt nature’s wrath.

RECEDING FLOOD WATERS, on a bean field on Greg Jochum’s farm, indicates the extent of crop losses for producers throughout northwest Iowa, following more than 11 inches of rainfall throughout June that included flooding when rain fell faster than soil could soak it in..

The combination of weather factors caused what one insurance representative called a “record number” of damage reports for hard-hit cropland in the area between Sioux City and Onawa.

“It’s as if there’s a multi-thousand-acre lake in the area,” said Steve Cloud, of Farm Bureau Insurance, Sioux City. “There’s a little bit of everything when it comes to the damage.”

Joel DeJong, an Iowa State University Extension crops specialist, based in Le Mars, said he noted the short time opportunity to replant soybeans had neared the potential of “being thrown out the window” denying producers a chance to recoup storm-related damages by replanting.

Jochum continues to assess what he could expect from the full effect of damages on the cropland that had been farmed by his father, Leo Jochum, since the late 1950s.

He said he anticipates between 160 bushels per acre to 200 bpa on better fields, but may average 100 bpa overall for the year.

Estimating his soybean yield, he said, it’s “tough to tell,” but he’s hoping for a 45-bpa soybean crop.

He said he’s fortunate to have crop insurance since 2014 has all the indications of a bleak time for himself and others in his area.

“We’ve never had anything on a wide scale like this one here in the bottom lands,” he said, adding that his father, who continues to assist him with spring and fall crop operations, has made a similar observation.

Jochum said planning ahead is key to his farm management practices.

Producers have tuned the benefits of prescription and variable rate applications of inputs and soil mapping, Jochum said

He said he relies on aerial mapping of the green spectrum of his flooded fields to aid him in marketing what’s left of his 2013 crop in storage.

He said he’s hopeful mapping his crop will give him a sound indication of “the good versus poor” health of acres in the flooded fields.

This data will then be compared with that for normal yield monitoring.

“This can give me an estimate, at this point, as to marketing of stored grain in my bins,” he said; “a kind of cushion to fill in the gaps (left by this year’s losses).”

He said he’s already started the process for grain not already sold.

Inspecting his corn in one field, Jochum said, “At this point there’s nothing you can do now but deal with the hand you’re dealt I guess.

“It’s a matter of going to harvest and seeing what you get.”

The uncertainty of crops for Jochum and other producers in a similar situation comes on the heels of the most recent USDA crops acreage report showing nationwide corn acreage planted down nationwide by 4 percent from a year ago with Iowa’s total planted acreage at 13.6 million unchanged from 2013 plantings.

Planted soybean acreage as of the June 20 report are shown as up 11 percent nationally.

Iowa farmers had 10.1 million acres, 800,000 acres over earlier projected plantings, according to the USDA report.

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