Hail, torrential rain, tornadoes and strong winds pummeled much of the state again this week causing significant crop and property loss.
Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) members are assessing damage from punishing storms Sunday and Monday. Volatile weather has plagued the state for several weeks.
On Monday ISA member Ron Dreher of rural Adair endured the worst storm in 40 years of farming. Large hail, coupled with 6 inches of rain in 20 minutes and winds in excess of 80 miles per hour, decimated about two-thirds of 1,000 acres of soybeans and corn he raises with his son Dan.
“It’s hard to look at the fields and see all the damage,” Ron said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to think that in 20 minutes all of the hard work was lost.”
Dan added, “We have 40 acres of corn and soybeans on the edge of town and it was defoliated completely. All that’s left of the beans are stems.”
Damaged soybeans in one of Ron Dreher’s fields near Adair. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)
Crop adjusters will assess the damage soon, the Drehers said. They think at least 40 acres are a complete loss.
Gov. Terry Branstad declared Adair, Guthrie, Jones and Linn counties disaster areas.
Hail from the most recent storms shredded soybean and corn fields near Adair and Casey. Pockets of farmland in Story County are under water. Machine sheds and livestock buildings near Stuart and Traer were flattened. Empty grain bins folded like accordions and blew away.
Other rural areas endured similar damage.
Iowa farmers planted an estimated 10.1 million acres of soybeans and 13.6 million acres of corn, according to Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acreage Report. Acres forecasted to be harvested for grain are 10 million and 13.2 million, respectively.
Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach cropping systems agronomist, and other colleagues estimate 2 to 3 percent of Iowa’s crops have been destroyed. Five percent of row crops are underwater, experts believe, which could add to the hundreds of thousands of acres already lost.
“Every year we have crop loss due to hail and floods. This year is on the higher side of normal,” Licht said.
Hail recently ruined a portion of April Hemmes soybean fields near Hampton. A sizable area of farmland is under water as well after 10 inches of rain fell from June 16-18, along with several more inches the past two days.
A crop insurance adjuster surveyed damage, the ISA member said.
“You know it’s bad when they look at you and say, ‘April, you don’t have enough insurance,’” Hemmes said.
Hemmes also lost numerous trees and a barn.
In general, soybeans can typically handle flooded conditions 6-8 days, research shows. Young corn plants can survive for 2-4 days. Oxygen, needed for plant survival, is usually depleted in flooded areas within one or two days.
Temperatures of 77 degrees or cooler helps with plant respiration and prolongs life. According to the National Weather Service in Des Moines, dry conditions and high temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees are forecasted for much of the state through Friday.
Licht said conditions are favorable for crop diseases. Plants in waterlogged soil and those with bruised stems and other injuries from hail are more vulnerable.
For soybeans, that means Sudden Death Syndrome and White Mold.
“I’m not ready to say cover every acre with a fungicide yet, but farmers really have to be watching,” Licht said.
A county road is flooded by water that overflowed a culvert near Dallas Center on Monday. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)
The garden spot
ISA members, whose fields have dodged most of the nasty weather, say crops are the best they’ve seen in years. Southeast Iowa appears to be the garden spot of the state.
The USDA Crops and Weather Report released Monday indicated the vast majority of crops are still in good to excellent condition.
“The crops in Southeast Iowa are looking really good,” said Lindsay Greiner, an ISA Board member who farms near Keota. “You have to look really hard to find a bad spot.”
Six percent of Iowa’s soybean acreage is blooming, 10 days ahead of last year but two days behind normal, according to the report. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 19 percent fair, 57 percent good and 18 percent excellent.
There were isolated reports of corn silking. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 56 percent good and 23 percent excellent.
Licht believes the assessment is a bit optimistic, saying “the good to excellent should be a little lower.”
There were only 2.2 days, on average, suitable for fieldwork last week due to persistent rain, according to the report. Some spraying and herbicide applications were done between storms.
ISA Board member Dean Coleman, who farms near Humboldt, sprayed soybeans that were about a foot tall last week. He said some head-high corn was two to four leaves from tasseling.
For the most part, Coleman said crops are in good shape. Corn and soybean acres lost to flooding has been minimal. He’ll replant soybeans.
Farmers replanting soybean will want to change maturity group to compensate for a shorter growing season.
“Overall it’s a pleasure to drive around and look at the crops after last year,” Coleman said.
Heavy rains have just missed Brock Hansen’s farm near Baxter. The ISA District Advisory Council Communication Action Team member said spraying and sidedressing corn has been a challenge due to the intermittent rain.
With the exception of southeast Iowa, every district in the state has over one-quarter of topsoil in surplus condition.
“At this time our crops look the best they have in a couple of years,” Hansen said.
By: Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager