Hail takes a toll on the winter wheat crop
June 21, 2018
Father's Day was in like a lamb and out like a lion on the weather front this year, with hail, tornadoes and flooding, wreaking havoc and widespread damage across a number of midwestern states.
According to weather reports, remnants of Hurricane Bob and a cold front merged together to create the havoc, that included widespread crop damage. While the wet weather was much needed, following a month-long dry spell in Colorado, the reportedly 1-inch to golf-ball-size hail reported in a number of areas was less than appreciated. Some areas reported close to 2 inches of rain following the Fathers Day weekend, along with hail of up to 1-inch in diameter.
In Julesburg, Colo., a weather spotter confirmed a tornado touched down, just two miles northwest of the small town, near the Colorado-Nebraska line. Severe hail damage to crops and minor flooding of county roads were reported along with a report of a new, never used, pivot just north of Ovid, Colo., turned over.
In Weld County, Colorado, a short-lived tornado was reported near Keenesburg. The rope tornado stayed on the ground for 3 to 5 minutes, touching down at 2:19 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. The tornado's winds tipped a semi-tractor trailer over, according to reports.
In Greeley, Colo., the worst of the storm came via hail and subsequent flooding. Residents took to social media to post pictures of the hail and flooding, which looked somewhat like a massive winter storm. According to reports, there was enough hail for Greeley Public Works to send out the snowplows.
And to add insult to injury, Sunday's storm was followed by more hail on Tuesday, June 19. There were nearly 80 large hail reports from the National Weather Service across the Front Range on Tuesday afternoon, with some large enough to break windshields.
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The aftermath in Colorado's Boulder County, left shredded crops, which will likely hit some producers in the pocket book.
"We are a very diversified operation and everything was profoundly impacted," Niwot farmer Michael Moss told reporters at the Daily Camera.
Farmers in south central Nebraska also took a huge hit with the damaging wind and hail storms. Todd Whitney, with University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said baseball- and tennis-ball-sized hail took its toll on crops.
While corn and beans in the area may still have time to recover, wheat in the area was only about 10 days from harvest, and in some areas will be a complete loss. Winter wheat growth has been running slightly behind, compared to last year, and the hail damage reports vary from 20 percent damage to 100 percent, according to a USDA crop report for the week ending June 17.
The report indicates topsoil moisture supplies are rated at 6 percent very short, 30 percent short, 61 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated at 8 percent very short, 26 percent short, 65 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus. Winter wheat conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 52 percent good and 9 percent excellent. Winter wheat headed was at 98 percent, which is behind last year's 100 percent, but above the 96 percent five-year average.
Conditions in southeastern Nebraska are still being reported as dry/drought conditions. Rainfall was received across the region during the Father's Day weekend, varying from over 2 inches to over 9 inches in the Reynold, Neb., area. According to USDA, crops in the area are maturing prematurely in some areas due to drought stress. It was estimated that nearly one-third of the wheat in the region has been cut and baled. Of the remaining wheat, most is turning color. Harvest is in full-swing south of the state line, into Kansas. A couple of producers have begun to harvest with one reporting under 20 bushels per acre and the other producer reporting around 40 bushels per acre. The overall condition for wheat in the area would be rated at fair to poor.
Travis Woolen, who farms north of Alma, said a good portion of his wheat crop was completely destroyed by the storm, but he is hopeful his corn and beans will be able to recover.
Nebraska Extension has put together a program called "Hail Know," to help with weather damage resources.
Annually, hail causes over $1 billion in economic losses across the U.S. In Nebraska, hail-producing storms are common during the planting and growing seasons. Half of all hail storms occur during the early stages of corn growth.
"Hail Know was created to build upon and expand Extension's hail-related programs," said Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension's disaster education coordinator and leader of the Hail Know project. "In the aftermath of a hail storm we want growers to know that they can turn to Nebraska Extension for the answers and certainty they need to make sound, research-based decisions to manage their crop."
Hail Know features videos, graphics and articles by a team of Extension experts in climate science, agronomy, engineering, agricultural technology, economics and disaster education.
Through Hail Know, growers can learn how to conduct a crop damage assessment. The assessment offers factors to consider when assessing damage early-season, in-season and late-season. When deciding whether to replant corn or soybeans, Hail Know recommends considering the yield potential of the replanted crop, previously applied herbicides and relative maturity of the crop, among other factors, when assessing the damage.
"The best advice following a hail storm is to have patience. Emotions run high when hail decimates fields, but it's best to wait seven to 10 days following the storm to allow for plant recovery before assessing damage," Mueller said.
In addition to damage assessment, Hail Know also offers information on hail formation and storms, crop insurance and risk management, replanting consideration, managing a recovering crop and cover crops.
To learn more about Hail Know, visit cropwatch.unl.edu/hailknow or follow Hail Know on Twitter at @HailKnowUNL.
The development of Hail Know was funded by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Smith-Lever special needs grant with matching funds from UNL. ❖
— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beulah, Wyo. When she's not writing, she's riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.