Responding to Hail in Northwest Iowa  

Joel DeJong, Northwest Crops Field Specialist


In crop production, many times the best impact we can make on crop producers, is at the "teachable moment" associated with a natural disaster.  Hail storms often create this teachable moment.  Such a storm occurred in  July  2004.  Several thousand acres had extreme hail damage in O'Brien County, with some damage in Lyon and Cherokee counties as well.  Some fields were complete losses.  Crop producers were looking for information on replanting options; what to expect for the rest of the season and in trying to settle crop insurance claims.  


The Crops Field Specialist, with cooperation from the CEED's in O'Brien and Lyon counties and two ag businesses in northwest Iowa, put together field meetings 3 and 7 days after the hail event to review the decision making process at this stage of crop growth.  Topics covered included: growth and development of beans and corn, how these crops respond to hail injury, making educated guesses on probable surviving plant stands, comparing that stand with the yield potential expected at harvest, and if there were any replanting options available to them (which was not a viable option at this date).  Producers were also encouraged to review their insurance coverages before making a final decision.  Hand-outs of hail loss charts and how losses were determined were discussed at length.  A total of 119 people attended the 2 sessions offered.


Ten producers who attended the meeting near Calumet were contacted by telephone during December to evaluate what impact these meetings had on their decision-making process.  All indicated that they had increased their knowledge level about crop expectations for the remaining season.  Except for those with total yield losses in the middle of the hail's path, most indicated that yields were above expectations from damaged crops.  The producers interviewed all said that they were much better prepared to work with their insurance agent in settling their claim after this meeting.  One indicated that I convinced him not to try a crop at the late date of the meeting - which would not have matured in time by the end of the season.  Three indicated that they were much more confident of the potential results, and less fearful, as a result of this meeting.

Although this survey did not ask for specific economic impact of this information, past surveys conducted by this Crops Specialist after similar events averaged about $14/acre - a figure reached from questions asking how much this information helped them in their decision-making process.

Timeliness of information when a disaster strikes is a vital way for Extension to reach audiences.  The impact of information provided at that time is at the highest level.  At ISU Extension we offer  research-based information to help take the emotion out of critical decisions.  We will continue to do this in the future.

Dec. 30, 2004
142 - Integrated Pest and Crop Management  

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