University of Nebraska Crop Experts Offer Tips for Evaluating Hail Damage to Crops

Early-season hail can cause damage to crops that are in the process of growing.
Early-season hail can cause damage to crops that are in the process of growing.

Agricultural experts from the University of Nebraska are explaining that hail damage and yield loss – specifically for corn – may depend on the timing and severity of hail events. That being said, they advise producers to be patient when it comes to all of their crops and hail damage.

When it comes to replant decisions, the experts recommend determining the percent yield loss of hail-damaged fields first. This can be based on original and remaining plant stand data from USDA Federal Crop Insurance Corporation tables.

In the event that producers notice plants with abnormal growth during their assessment, the experts advise against clipping to encourage “normal” growth. They cite two studies, which found highly variable yields compared to unclipped plants.

“We strongly advise farmers not clip abnormal plants as this may spread plant diseases across the field,” say Justin McMechan and Roger Elmore of the University of Nebraska.

Some believe that hail can leave behind more water for later in the growing season, but McMechan and Elmore also warn against this assumption. While early-season hail damage can reduce plants’ water use early on, rendering more of it available later in the season, there is no guarantee. The experts say that producers should be mindful of this unpredictability.

Finally, McMechan and Elmore advise producers to wait seven-to-ten days after a hail storm before assessing damage and to give the plants a chance to recover. They can also rotate crops to reduce the potential for additional losses.