Farmers have options for hail-damaged fields

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Farm Forum

Recent storms have damaged crops in fields across the region, some seriously.

Most of the damage has been east of Groton, near Andover, said Gared Shaffer, a weeds field specialist with South Dakota State University Extension.

“A lot of hail damage in that area,” he said. “It’s like taking a hammer to the plant and stripping leaves.”

In some cases, when crops are damaged this late in the growing season, they aren’t worth harvesting.

Beans are setting pods and corn is developing and seeding ears. Neither will have good yields if they don’t have leaves for photosynthesis, Shaffer said.

If it happens that a field is a loss, farmers have a few options. Nitrate levels are key in deciding what they do.

Planting a cover crop like winter rye, turnips or radishes, is one possibility, Shaffer said. Others include green chopping, baling, grazing or turning the crop into silage.

It can be risky, though. High nitrate levels can kill cattle, he said.

Generally, pesticides and herbicides aren’t much of a concern if a field is being converted for feed.

“Unless you applied late season, you shouldn’t have a problem,” Shaffer said.

It will be an issue if farmers are putting in a cover crop, though. They’ll have to examine the chemicals used to see if there will be any carryover, he said. In some cases, farmers might have to disc under a field.

But it’s uncommon that hail would wipe out a whole field, said Julie Burgod, a crop insurance specialist with Crop Management Services in Aberdeen. There’s usually some damage that will hinder yield as opposed to a complete loss, she said.

Corn and soybeans are pretty resilient, but hail still causes damage.

“I don’t care what type of hail you get, it will set crops back,” Burgod said.

The decision to scrap a crop depends on the severity of damage. Sometimes plants can outgrow the breakage, bruising and stripped foliage caused by hail, she said.

Insurance assessors generally wait seven to 10 days to look at crops after a storm because the plants might start to recover by then, she said.

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