Severe hail storm wreaks havoc on area crops

August 8, 2018

Let’s talk crops! Northern Platte County saw a severe hail storm move through the area last Saturday. In the wake of this weather event, damage to corn, soybeans, and forages was documented around Tarnov, Creston, and Humphrey.

The areas affected had minor to severe defoliation in soybeans, corn, and alfalfa fields. There was also bruising on pods, ears, and stems. After talking with local growers throughout the area, many are making plans to move forward. The most severely affected corn and soybean fields will most likely be harvested for silage and over seeded with cover crops in an effort to produce feed or roughage.

Please note that it is important to check your herbicide program before planting anything in soybeans or corn. The plant back for many herbicides is at least 4 months for oats or cereal rye. Many growers are waiting for insurance information before proceeding.

Damage was also documented in alfalfa and grass hay. The grass hay affected by hail will recover more quickly than alfalfa stands. Alfalfa stands affected by hail will most likely be delayed for the next harvest depending on the percent of defoliation.

Hail can physically defoliate and damage the growing point of alfalfa. Alfalfa grows from the top of each stem on the plant. Therefore, damage to these areas ceases height development on the injured stems. Hail damage before the first cutting causes significant yield loss. Thankfully the hail damage occurred later in the season, which will have a smaller negative effect on the stand moving forward.

The most important means for estimating hail damage is to determine if more than 50 percent of the terminal ends are damaged. If more than 50 percent is damaged, it may be necessary to wait until the regrowth has reached harvestable maturity. If the hail damage is less than 50 percent of the terminal buds damaged then harvesting on the normal schedule will give the alfalfa ample time to re-grow for the next harvest.

Be aware there will be less overall forage present at the time of harvest. Checking the field periodically before the scheduled cutting will allow you to have a more accurate idea of when the stand will be recovered.

Weather can drive the recovery so be aware of extreme temperatures or moisture affecting your stand. In terms of quality, there will be a slight decline. This will be relatively small once new foliage has appeared. Thankfully, this severe weather only affected an isolated area in north east Nebraska, however my thoughts go out to the farmers affected.

Also visit CropWatch at UNL extension for weekly articles about current issues and view scouting reports from across the state. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at 402-563-4901 or email me at mtaylor42@unl.edu. For up-to-date information follow me on twitter @CropTalkMegan.

Dr. Megan Taylor is a crop educator for Nebraska Extension.

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