Storms damage crops, force replanting decisions

By Kent Thiesse

Severe storms in some areas of Southern Minnesota in early June has resulted in some farm operators are now facing difficult decisions with regards to replanting crops. Significant portions of Blue Earth and Waseca Counties, and other locations in Southern Minnesota received major hail damage to crops, which will likely result in some replant decisions, especially with soybeans. Heavy rainfall events also lead to drown-out damage in portions of fields across the region.

Fortunately, much of the corn was still small enough that the growing point on the corn was still near ground level or below when the hail occurred. The growing point is at this level until the corn reaches nearly a foot tall. Most of the hail damaged corn plants should have new growth emerging within a few days; however, some plants may be so severely damaged that they may not recover. Even if there is more significant damage to the corn, most producers will likely not be replanting corn at this late date, except for livestock producers that can utilize the corn as silage or high moisture corn. Based on University research, corn planted in Southern Minnesota in early June has 80 percent or less of the expected yield potential, compared to corn planted in late April to early May.

University research has shown that corn stands can be reduced up 50 percent with only a 20 percent reduction in yield potential, provided that the stand reductions are fairly uniform. Similarly, soybean stands can be reduced by up to one-third, with only a 10 percent or less loss of yield potential. It should be noted that there is a lot of variation in these results in actual field conditions due to gaps between plants in the row, and the health of the remaining plants in the field. Unfortunately, hail or drown-out damage can be quite variable across a field.

There will likely be thousands of acres of acres of soybeans replanted in Southern Minnesota following the hail damage. Full-season soybean varieties planted in early June have a yield potential of 40-50 bushels per acre or more, compared to normal yield expectations of 50-60 bushels per acre. Earlier varieties of soybeans that are planted in mid-June have a realistic yield expectation of 30-40 bushels per acre. By late June or early July, the soybean yield expectations drop to 20-30 bushels per acre. The yield potential of late planted soybeans is highly variable and is very dependent on favorable weather conditions in August and early September, as well as having a later than normal first frost date. It is best to consult with an agronomist or seed representative before finalizing crop replant decisions.

Another factor affecting replant decisions is Federal Crop Insurance policies, which allow producers some compensation for replanting following crop losses from hail, heavy rains, or other natural causes. To qualify for replant compensation, farmers must have a loss area of at least 20 acres, or 20 percent of the total acres in an insured farm unit, whichever is less. The crop insurance replant provision can only be exercised once on the same crop acres. The dollars allocated for replant costs are deducted from potential maximum crop insurance indemnity payments later in the year.

A majority of farmers in the Upper Midwest insure their corn and soybeans with a crop insurance policy utilizing “enterprise units”, which group all acres of a given crop in a County together for calculating potential crop loss and insurance indemnity payments. By comparison, a crop insurance policy with “optional units”, insures crops down to individual sections within a Township. The reason most farmers choose “enterprise units” is to get higher insurance coverage levels at a lower premium cost. However, many times producers fare much better with “optional units”, as far as potential crop insurance indemnity payments, when dealing localized crop losses from hail or drown-out damage.   

Crop producers in the Upper Midwest that are facing either prevented planting or crop replant situations should contact their crop insurance agent for more details on the prevented planting and replant options with various crop insurance policies. The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has some very good crop insurance information and fact sheets available on the agency’s web site at https://www.rma.usda.gov/. The University of Minnesota Extension Service also has some good information available on hail damage to crops at https://extension.umn.edu/crop-production.

Even though parts of the Upper Midwest have been dealing with severe storms and excessive rainfall, which has caused some crop damage, most areas have benefitted from the warmer temperatures and rainfall in the first half of June, which have provided very favorable growing conditions. According to data from the Minnesota State Climatology Office, the average temperature at many reporting stations in Minnesota for the first week of June was 6-10 degrees above normal. The very warm temperatures resulted in rapid growth of both corn and soybeans. The level of growing degree units (GDU’s), which measure growing conditions for corn and soybeans, were well behind normal during much of May in Southern Minnesota; however, by June 8, the level of GDU’s had moved ahead of normal at most locations.  

As of June 1, 83 percent of the corn and 84 percent of the soybeans in Minnesota were rated good-to-excellent, which far surpasses crop condition ratings in early June a year ago. On June 1, 2019, less than half of the soybeans in Minnesota had been planted and less than half of the corn was emerged. The current crop condition for a large majority of the corn and soybean crop in Iowa and Nebraska was also rated at 80% or higher good-to-excellent. Overall growing conditions in Illinois, Indiana, and other Eastern Corn Belt States have been somewhat less favorable. Some areas of North and South Dakota have been dealing with planting delays due to wet field conditions, while other areas of the two States are facing moderate drought conditions in early June. As of June 1, on a nationwide basis, 70% of the U.S. corn and soybean crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition, which is higher than the early June rating in recent years.

For additional information email Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and Senior Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.  

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