Amid Late Season Hail, Farmers Assess Damages

Aug. 9, 2019, 5:23 p.m. ·

These crops were damaged by a mid-week storm in Clay County. (Photo by Jennifer Rees, UNL)

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Farmers in south-central Nebraska are still assessing damage after a hail storm with strong winds rolled through the area early Wednesday morning.

In Clay County, producers are in the fields today trying to answer how, or if, their crops will survive to harvest. Scott von Spreckelsen, a farmer from Clay County says he’s mostly dealing with defoliation and broken corn stalks. Defoliation happens when powerful winds tear the leaves off of a corn plant. Without a normal amount of leaves, the plant can’t fully synthesize. For farmers, that means their corn won’t grow to its full potential, and may not even be harvestable. Scott says it’s all about timing.

“If the corn stalk breaks off this time of year, there won’t be anything to harvest. The defoliation, as far as the leaves being stripped off or broke off, that just kind of depends how much it goes, or how far along the crop is.”

Jenny Rees is as an educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s extension program in Southeastern Nebraska. She says that defoliation can also cause weed growth.

“Normally at this point in the season, we would still have complete canopy enclosure, which means you can’t really see a lot of light on the soil surface in both our corn and soybean crops. So any time you get light that hits the soil surface, that can allow for weed seeds to germinate.”

Rees has encouraged producers to get creative with controlling weeds, like planting turnips or other cover crops. She also say communication between farmers is crucial when problems arise: it can help people brainstorm solutions to setbacks while feeling supported during trying times.

She says, “Our farmers and our livestock producers have been through so much this year, thing after thing has been hitting them. Reach out to each other, talk about your damage, what you’re going through. There’s also benefit to just talking with each other.”

As recovery continues, Scott says farmers will do what they always do: keep calm and carry on.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a profession and community that works together and helps each other, and we’ll weather the storm. We’ll do what we have to do.”