Crop Experts Answer Farmer Questions at Emergency Disaster Meetings


Emergency outreach meetings were held in Gibbon and Blue Hill on Thursday to answer questions farmers have about what to do after last week’s storms damaged thousands of acres.

Crop experts say step one: talk with insurance adjusters. But, after hearing where that stands, they say farmers with hail-riddled fields might have a lot of choices to make still.

A lot of it depends on the crop, amount of damage and circumstances.

Blue Hill farmer Dan Van Boening is one of hundreds who came to the meetings.

“All but 80 acres of corn - otherwise everything, beans and wheat are a total loss,” he says. “The crop damage is totally devastating -- it was really mostly pea to marble-sized hail, but there was so much of it and so much wind.”

“We’re talking disaster here, and some people have lost a lot of crop acres,” says Roger Elmore, a University of Nebraska Extension cropping systems agronomist. “People have lost a lot of feed for cattle, the pastures are destroyed, and so it’s not a pretty picture for a lot of folks.”

Elmore says soybeans might regrow, but the timing was bad for silking and tasseling corn, and neither crop will yield as much even if it does survive.

“But we do have the options for cover crops, and especially if you have some livestock, there’s a lot of potential there,” he says.

That’s what Van Boening came to the meeting to find out more about.

“One of the biggest things is I don’t want to get out of the crop rotation - we are going to look at some cover crops, especially on the hailed corn because weeds are going to be a problem,” he says.

Elmore agrees, saying something will grow, even if it’s not crops.

“Putting something on to cover the soil and keep weed pressure down would be pretty important, so watch those steps even if you don’t do anything else,” says Elmore.

Experts say having something growing will keep nitrates from leaching into groundwater too.

“The crop, if its been killed, you’ve got a lot of the nitrogen still in the profile - you want to hold on to capture that somehow and you can do that with various cover crops and other things,” says Elmore.

With the hail hurting the leaves and stalks of the plants, growers say they next thing they’ll have to watch for are diseases and bacteria -- yet another option to weigh as they decide what to do.