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Look for Tools To Help Assess Hail Damage in Soybeans

Look for Tools To Help Assess Hail Damage in Soybeans
Hail damage to soybeans may be worse than it looks. Sometimes.

Hail is part of life in Indiana. It's also part of the line insurance adjusters use after inspecting your roof. One trick some use is to estimate your damage just above your deductible, then say "Hey, why don't you wait until you have more damage and get it replaced. It's Indiana, so you're going to get another hailstorm sooner or later."

While that may be a sleazy sales pitch to avoid paying a claim, crop adjusters checking fields damaged by hail are usually much more upfront and honest. It's no gimmick when they tell you to wait a few days and see how plants recover before making rash decisions.

Hard hit: This field of beans was hit hard by large hail in mid-June. Some plants didn't survive this hit. In this situation there was still time to consider replanting.

There are good guides available to help you with those decisions. One is the Purdue University Corn & Soybean pocket Field Guide and its companion iPad app. The guide contains information on hail statistics, some provided by national hail crop insurance companies.

In soybeans, most tables base expected loss on the amount of leaf tissue lost during the hail event. In severe cases it may be a matter of whether some plants will survive. In those cases the stems may have also taken direct hits.

Related: Corn Yield Loss Estimates from Hail Damage May Surprise You

Using the table in the Purdue Corn & Soybean Field Guide, it's obvious that yield losses from hail tend to be more likely when soybeans lose foliage during the reproductive stage. They don't have time to compensate.

For example, if 40% of the soybean foliage is destroyed at the R1 stage just as the reproductive cycle begins, the table projects a 3% yield loss. On 60 bushel potential soybeans, that's about 2 bushels per acre. But if the same 40% damage occurs a few weeks later at R 5, the yield loss can be 14%. Now you're talking about an 8 bushel loss on 60 bushels per acre soybeans.

In severe cases, say 70% loss of foliage due to hail, the numbers are higher. At R1 you could expect to lose 5% of potential original yield. But if it hits at R5 and wipes out that much foliage, the estimated damage is 31%, or nearly a third of expected yield.

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