Tips to managing storm-damaged row crops

EMMETSBURG – Grain producers in many parts of Northwest Iowa are deciding what to do with flooded and hailed-out acres following an outbreak of severe weather during the week of June 15, which brought up to baseball-sized hail and 10 to 15 inches of rain in a week’s time.

Whatever they decide, growers are cautioned to keep their crop insurance agents in the loop.

“I’m hearing from people that this year is a lot like 1993, but it isn’t,” said Paul Kassel, an Iowa State University Extension crop specialist, who spoke to about two dozen producers at an Emmetsburg-based crop damage meeting on June 24.

“(The weather) was cool in 1993, and the crops had a delayed start because of it,” he said. “This year’s weather has been normal, and that’s the good news. The crops had a good running start before this happened.”

Areas receiving the brunt of the storm damage included southern Clay County, and parts of Palo Alto and Pocahontas counties.

Kassel said there is hope for corn and soybean plants to recover, depending on the severity of damage suffered.

Yield reductions should be expected on crops that were damaged and left to heal, as well as on replanted acres.

“Soybeans have a lot of their growing points above ground, and they can take quite a bit,” Kassel said. “But if there is a lot of bruising on the stalks, and the plants grow and make pods and then the plants begin to fall over, you may not be able to harvest what you do have.

“If you have soybeans that have a little regrowth, and if you can bend the stem and not break it, that’s good news.”

Kassel said the absence of cotyledons does not stunt re-growth if the plant is healthy enough to keep going, since re-growth creates leaves to help catch sunlight.

He said if corn plants are badly bruised near the growing point they are subject to stalk rot, leading to delayed development and difficult harvesting issues.

Kassel said spraying fungicide following such hail damage may not be the best option for plant health, either.

“There are a lot of bacterial diseases fungicides don’t control,” he said. “As a general statement, if the corn’s pretty beaten up and the yield potential is less, I’d save my money and spray the good corn and soybeans, but that’s more of an opinion than fact.”

Dirt- and mud-covered plants were a concern to farmers at the gathering, but Kassel said it’s more of a concern for corn as dirt-filled whorls can lead to disease problems.

Kassel reminded producers that a wet June can also lead to Sudden Death Syndrome as soybean roots begin to rot.

He said growers should be thinking about a nitrogen plan, as flooded plants sit in stagnant water without oxygen, and with water depleting plants of nitrogen.

Kassel said corn planted in early May that has a population of 10,000 to 15,000 plants per acre can still be expected to yield 70 to 80 percent of average, if weather conditions continue as normal.

Late-June-planted soybeans can be expected to yield 60 percent of normal, and wet corn could be harvested for silage purposes if necessary.

He said denitrification losses can be 4 to 5 percent per day, and that 50 pounds per acre of side-dress nitrogen restored yields when that has previously occurred.

He said nitrate loss due to tile drainage ranged from nine to 52 pounds per acre. Kassel said producers should consider in-season application of 30 to 50 pounds per acre of additional nitrogen.

“I know you don’t want to hear that, but it will be worth it to spend the money on additional nitrogen,” Kassel said.

As producers wait for water to recede, land to dry out to map their strategies, Kassel said soybean producers should expect a 30 to 40 percent yield reduction with a late-June planted crop, resulting in 25 to 35 bushels per acre.

He encouraged them to use a late-group 1 variety from now until at least July 1 and beyond.

He suggested hey consider seed treatments against pythium and phytophthora, saying phytophthora could be more aggressive with replanted beans.

Kassel said to watch labels for herbicide treatments for replanted soybeans. He said some are not labeled for soybeans, but could be worth trying as late as it’s getting.

Mike Patton, of Rain/Hail Insurance, told producers to contact their federal crop insurance company as soon as possible if they have sustained heavy crop damage.

“They may give you permission over the phone to replant,” he said. “If you want to replant that’s fine, but they won’t want to find out about it in December.”

Producers should also have an acreage report ready, which he said is especially important if a corn field was damaged and some of it went into soybeans.

He said guarantees are based on the initial planting dates for both corn and soybeans. Insuring “second crops” (crops that have been replanted) is always optional, he said.

Claims adjusters will scout fields, looking for regrowth, viability of the remaining plants, stand reduction, defoliation and more.

Patton said if producers resort to planting a forage crop to replace damaged corn or soybean acres, they still need to report that to their crop insurance agencies and have the work documented.