Hail Damages Estimated 150,000 Acres of Crops

By: Keller Russell Email
By: Keller Russell Email

Farmers, once desperate for rain, are now praying for recovery from hail damage.

In seven days, counties in southeast Nebraska were hit anywhere from one to five times with hail -- damaging more than 150,000 acres of crops in three counties.

The damage has Gene Wiese of Adams, looking for clues on where to place his bet, as he cuts open a stalk of corn - looking for the stage of the growth inside.

Most of his 230 acres of corn in Gage County are hail damaged - hit three times in one week.

"It will all be a reduced yield I'm sure," said Wiese, looking at his flattened rows of corn.

Now Wiese, who has been farming for 33 years, must decide if he should replant or bet on his fields recovering.

"They're giving me some hope..they could send new shoots out of these little stalks and still make something..actually more than if you replant at this stage," said Wiese.

Wiese's crops are part of more than 150,000 acres damaged by hail in Gage, Saline and Fillmore counties, according to the State Farm Service Agency or FSA.

According to the Saline County Emergency Management, about 55,700 acres were damaged in Saline county, with an estimated loss of nearly $800,000 in winter wheat, $2,859,360 in corn and $1,872,000 in soybeans, totaling more than $5.5 million dollars.

In Fillmore County, FSA officials estimate 18,000 acres damaged - 12,000 in corn and about 8,000 in soybeans.

Gage County was hit hard too, with an estimated 90,000 acres damaged - approximately 45,000 in both corn and soybeans.

FSA didn't want to get specific on the total amount of dollars of damage but it will likely be in the multi-millions.

Paul Hay, an extension agent for Gage County says he expects most of the area's corn to weather the damage relatively well with a 10-20 percent yield loss potential.

"Most of the damage is leaf damage," said Hay.

He expects about 20,000 acres of the total damaged to require replanting - the area in the heart of the storm.

Hay says choosing to replant can be risky if it's not absolutely necessary.

"You want to take real serious if you're going to replant because there's quite a bit of expense and not 100 percent yield regardless," said Hay.

While there is hope of recovery for a number of farmers, there's no doubt they will likely take a hit in their profits.

"They'll be able to hold operation together but profits and family living are going to suffer," said Hay.

Gene Wiese knows he might be down, but he's not yet out.

"Farmers always gamble so we'll give it another shot."

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