June 13, 2011
With hail stones falling out of the sky for the past several weeks, Purdue University's Bob Nielsen has field many questions about what to do with hail-damaged fields. His answer is the same as it has been for years- wait as long as you can to see how much recovery will happen before you make a decision. Often fields will recover to a much more striking extent that people suspect.
Here are some points to keep in mind, based on past trips through damaged corn fields in mid-June with Nielsen.
How uniform is the damage? Did the entire field get hit, or just one corner? Are all plants affected, or just some?
What viable population is left in the field? How many plants will produce ears from the crop that is left? To assess this, you may have to do stand counts at various points in the field and come up with some sort of working average.
Is it a flex-ear hybrid that will compensate more? Some hybrids have more ability to extend their length when there aren't close neighbors than others. If the hybrid in the field hit by hail has the ability to put on longer ears at thinner populations, it may be in a better position to recover and reclaim yield than a hybrid where ear size is relatively fixed no matter what the conditions.
What stage of development was the corn in? Is the growing point still below the ground? On late-planted corn, that still may be the case. The growing point doesn't emerge until about the six-leaf stage. If the growing point is above ground and damaged, it's a whole different ballgame than if it is still below the ground. Corn with the growing point below the ground can often regrow and replace damaged leaves.
How late is it in the season? What are your options? If the storm brought rain, what will the calendar read when the field dries out? Would there still be time to plant corn? Or is it past the time to plant corn and expect it to mature before a killing frost next fall?
Do you have hail insurance? If you do, be sure to call a hail adjustor. Sometimes they will want check strips left even if you do decide to tear up part of the field and replant.
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