Field Survey of South Central Nebraska Crops and Storm Damage - UNL CropWatch, June 2012

Field Survey of South Central Nebraska Crops and Storm Damage - UNL CropWatch, June 2012

June 8, 2012

I have scouted the southern half of Nuckolls, Webster and Franklin counties. We are at August type conditions in the Superior to Red Cloud area with our pastures and haylands. Most producers indicated they won’t get a prairie hay cutting this year and the dryland alfalfa fields without rain will likely not have over two cuttings. Cool season grasses have matured early and are short on tonnage; warm season grasses are lying dormant. In touring Nuckolls County and talking to producers in that area, it sounds and looks like it is very dry in the area from Lawrence to Nelson, carrying into drought-like conditions in eastern Webster County. It seems worse in Webster County in the Guide Rock area and slightly better as you go toward the middle of Webster County, but is very close to becoming critical.

In most pastures we found grasses with stunted, dry (crunchy to the step) and brown areas on the top of ridges and on side hills. There are short elongations between nodes on the grass with about half of the shoots coming from the crown not surviving and showing withering and dead shoots. There are bare spots and the pastures have a blue to brownish cast. You can especially see the difference in management with some pastures showing the effects of the drought we had from 2001 to 2008 and from probably overgrazing or lack of proper management practices. You can really see the effect of not getting rain last fall and then getting short-changed on snow this winter and getting bypassed by significant rains all spring.

I went out with Val Phelps, FSA director for Franklin County and another individual who makes independent assessments to look at conditions from Riverton in southeastern Franklin County to south and east of Naponee in southwest Franklin County. We then went about 12 miles North and then east to get a feeling for the center part of the county. We found the condition very similar to the Red Cloud conditions at Riverton and found it less drought-affected but still on the critical edge as we went further west. One pasture showed pretty good condition likely due to limited grazing and good management while pastures across from it showed typical signs of drought. Except for one pasture, they appeared to be more like July conditions. It appeared that there had been more rain in western Franklin County and it showed in the grass and hayland areas.

I then traveled north out of Franklin and checked pasture conditions as I went, finding conditions getting somewhat better as I went North on Highway 10. I then followed Highway 4 past Upland, Campbell, Bladen and Blue Hill. These areas were more likely similar in condition to the Naponee area, showing the effects of a higher amount of rainfall in the last couple of weeks. But, the area is showing stress and will likely start to suffer with heat, wind, and lack of moisture. It already has a July look to it. Terri Post, FSA director in Webster County and I will be discussing the conditions and will be making a similar swing through Webster County in the near future.

Hail Storms In South Central Nebraska

I have trudged through a lot of fields after the two hail storms that hit the southern tiers of counties in Nebraska looking at various degrees of damage from very little to a 100% crop loss. The series of storms seem to follow close to the same path in our area. The path of hail seemed to start at about 5 miles west and a couple of miles south of the Highway 4 and 10 intersection in Franklin County to Campbell then arcing across to northern Webster County at Bladen to a wider expanse from south of Blue Hill north to Highway 74 at Ayr in southern Adams County. It continued in an even wider area from south of Pauline to Lawrence through Deweese in Nuckolls County and then east to the Fairfield area in Clay County.

Hail was not the only damaging factor. Wind also took its toll. From my observations and discussion with producers, it appears that 37 pivots in that path were overturned with various degrees of damage. Some were completely flipped over, some had about half of the towers affected and several had one or two towers. Unfortunately, some pivot points had extensive damage as well. I also saw a couple of grain bins that were dented or concrete flooring damaged (raised up) and one empty grain bin pretty much destroyed. Some barns and other outbuildings had portions removed or moved by either a very strong straight wind or a potential twister.

Some believe it was what is called a “tree-top” twister, or one that does not quite reach the ground but still causes damage. We had various amounts of damage to soybean, corn, and wheat fields. Wheat fields were in the final maturity stages. That meant that a lot of the wheat was knocked out of the heads and the ground is covered with wheat kernels. In many fields that were already negatively affected by the heat and dry conditions, this was the blow that relegated some fields to being swathed and baled.

Corn was in various stages of development. Those fields at the 6-leaf stage and under looked terrible but are starting to come out of it. Growth may be delayed some in those fields. Some corn that was in the 7- to 9-leaf stage with growing points out of the ground suffered a greater loss where the hail was heavier. Most of these fields have been sprayed and will be replanted to either a variety of shorter season corn or grain sorghum. The damage was scattered across this area, with some fields destroyed and others just mildly effected. There are some worries about corn that didn’t get destroyed, but exhibited bruises on the stalks. The concern is of diseases (stalk rot, etc.) coming in from that vector.

Some earlier planted soybeans showed a lot of damage. Some fields were completely wiped out and did not show signs of recovery after a week to 10 days. Those fields are being replanted. Some fields had at least 90% of the plants showing new leaves and looking a lot better in that same time frame. In those fields, the producers have elected to leave the beans and take their chances on further development. I think we will likely see good beans in those fields, even with this setback. I expect fewer losses in soybean because so many of these fields had just started to emerge or were being replanted from problems of “crust and dust” at sprouting and emerging time.

Insurance adjustors are out and I heard a lot of 25%-50% damage reports from adjustors in a wide range of fields. Some were cleared for replant, others will need a test area to be left for harvest considerations.

Dewey Lienemann
Extension Educator in Webster County