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Derecho damage could slow harvest this fall

Drought stressed corn
The obvious question the market has is what is the extent of the damage?

I took my own crop tour this past weekend, driving through parts of Central Iowa.  “Shock” is probably the best way to describe seeing the fields damaged by the Derecho storm

Central and Eastern Iowa were garden spots going into the month of August, helping to make up for the drought damage accumulating in Western Iowa. That is why this storm is so frustrating, because for much of these areas impacted by the storm, farmers were expecting at or above trendline yields before the storm hit. 

What is most intriguing is that the storm didn’t necessarily decimate every field in its path. There are fields that are flat with heavy damage, but that is not the rule. You can find fields that have little to no damage next to fields that were flattened. 

It would appear the storm tested corn stalk resilience between different hybrids. With wind damage running through the fields like rivers, there was an extreme difference in how hybrids responded even in the same field.

How bad is it?

The obvious question the market has is what is the extent of the damage? I have had problems with stalk lodging in the past, and it can be an annoyance. Damage from the Derecho goes beyond this in some areas, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost. 

This storm came post-pollination, so the ears are made. While there is risk of quality damage, the combine can still pick up most of what is there, but at a very high cost.  Many of the fields will have to be harvested in a single direction at slower speeds.  It will make the harvest last three times longer, which is mostly why it is worse than your typical case of stalk lodging.   

I have seen some huge acreage estimates that could be grossly overstated. There is a difference between being windblown and wind damaged. The derecho path crossed from Northeast Nebraska to Indiana. A climatologist that I follow says 8 million acres were covered where there was damage.

If half of that is soybeans, we are talking potential damage to 4 million acres. The damage to soybeans does not appear to be near as severe. A farm manager I spoke with near Cedar Rapids says that the soybean fields bounced back up after being twisted. 

A 20% loss on 4 million acres is almost 150 million bushels. This is not insignificant, but the reality is this amount of production could be offset some place else with good weather. 

Meanwhile, drought

I am more worried about the drought damage that is occurring in West/Central Iowa.  It could be more severe than the damage from the Derecho storm.

On my same crop tour, I also saw a lot of soybean fields showing signs of stress.  August is when the majority of soybean pods get filled and so moisture is critical. The potential for a phenomenal U..S soybean yield is being threatened. 

Oddly enough, the Derecho did not bring near the amount of rainfall that most hurricanes do. Much of Iowa and other states need a good general rain more than anything and there is not much to get excited about in the forecast. We have had several chances of rain that never came to fruition. 

It appears we have to rely on surprise rains to get us to the finish line. The heavy soils are still holding but the lighter ground is giving up yield each day.    

Matthew Kruse is President of Commstock Investments.  He can be reached at 712-227-1110 or [email protected]
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The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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