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Lancaster County Farmers Deal with Irene

Written by Scott Sheely on .

Lancaster: While many East Coast residents are still dealing with the flooding associated with Hurricane Irene, farmers and other people in the agriculture industry in Lancaster County are still assessing the damage done by the Hurricane and developing plans to save their crops, particularly the corn crop.  Many producers chopped corn in advance of the storm.  Damage was spotty as reported by members of the Lancaster County Agriculture Council.

  • County Extension Agent Leon Ressler commented, "From what I see we had no major damage to structures, we will have a delay in silage harvesting due to mud but most corn that was almost ready for silage was chopped in a hurry before the storm struck. Biggest problem is downed corn. About 20-25% is leaning and a small percentage is broken off. The broken flat fields will be hard to salvage but that is only a small percentage (2-3% ?). The leaning corn will probably be mostly salvaged with more cost involved in because it will have to be harvested going only one direction. There will be some higher field losses with those fields."
  • Ag Lender Lamar King from Fulton Bank added, "From what I've seen and heard from Chester/Lancaster it wasn't as bad as feared. There are still farms without electric, but the ones that need it have generators to keep things going. The corn/tobacco crops were the ones hit the hardest but again that is really spotty from one field to the next. There were areas in southern Chester county with 50% of their corn down but other areas due to dryness this year that everything stayed standing with the lack of weight on the ear. Some tobacco got flapped around in the wind but didn't break and other places leaves were in shreads. It was 4-7 inches of rain fall in those 2 counties."
  • From an insurance perspective, Greg Kirkham from the Westfield Group said, "We had about 400 calls yesterday, more on the way today.  Lots of trees down, some wind damage to roofs, sump and drain back up making for the majority of the claims."
  • Damaged corn seems to be the biggest problem.  Greg Roth from Cooperative Extension in State College sends this advice.  "The remnants of the hurricane that passed through last weekend caused significant wind damage to corn fields throughout central and southeastern Pennsylvania. Corn ranges from leaning over to broken above the ear to broken below the ear and some is completely flat. Damage seems to be a function of the exposure, planting date, corn borer injury, stalk rot and genetics and often varies dramatically from one field to the next. Late planted fields seem especially hard hit in some areas. The poor root development, wet soils, tall corn and high ear placement all contributed to lodging problems.

At this point, producers should not panic and focus first on fields that have significant amounts of corn that is broken off. This would be at most risk for developing moldy ears and low test weight grain and has the least recovery potential. If the corn is immature, a silage harvest would be appropriate, with storage plans reflecting the moisture content of the crop. For very wet silages, consider horizontal storage structures to minimize seepage

Corn that is not broken off and leaning or bent over should mature at a slower pace but eventually reach physiological maturity. There is some risk of increased ear molds on this corn, especially on really down fields, so a silage harvest would be the preferred method of handling this crop. I would monitor these fields as they mature and harvest rapidly if significant ear molds begin to develop. Otherwise I would try to let the crop mature until it reaches the desired moisture for ensiling or shelled corn harvest. The best of the lodged fields to consider for shelled corn harvest would be those that have already developed a milk line and started to mature and those that only have patches of down corn.
I am getting mixed reports on harvest success with various equipment configurations- it may be a good idea to check with your farm equipment dealer on what's working in your area. Specialized harvesting equipment is available for harvesting down corn for grain- I have compiled a list of manufacturers on my website.
Producers who feel they may have a crop insurance claim with severely damaged crops should also review their situation and plans with their crop insurance agent and get a clear answer on how to proceed. It may be difficult to leave check strips for grain yield assessment as many producers did last year."