Hope for Hail-Damaged Wheat

May 16, 2010 07:00 PM

Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Technology & Special Projects Editor
Hail pummeled Jeff Dierksheide's picture-perfect wheat crop in early May, leaving the northwest Ohio farmer with little hope for its recovery.
But last week, field checks of the 85 acres that were storm damaged provided some encouragement.
While one field sustained severe damage, Dierksheide says a second looks like it will recover and produce decent yields.
"We did some stand counts, and they believe there may be 70-bushel-wheat potential in the one field,” says Dierksheide, referencing Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer and The Andersons Seed Sales Specialist Amanda Schwartz.
Wheat often can recover from storm damage, if the head has not emerged, Bauer says. She encourages farmers to give wheat at this growth stage five to seven days to exhibit signs of recovery before making a final decision on whether or not to plant a different crop.
"Wheat that is damaged above the head is not nearly as devastating as when it's damaged below the head,” she says.
Joe Lauer agrees. "Spikes can still pollinate and fill, and regrowth from new tillers can occur,” writes Lauer, University of Wisconsin Agronomist. Lauer offers an information sheet on assessing hail damage in small grains. It is available at http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/WCM/W075.aspx.

Photos by Amanda Schwartz
Dierksheide says he will plant soybeans in the one field where the wheat crop was destroyed. "By the time it dries up, it'll be too late for corn,” he explains.
Other Ohio farmers plan a similar approach, according to the May 11 issue of the Ohio State University (OSU) C.O.R.N. Newsletter.
Before taking any action, though, farmers may want to consider using their damaged wheat for hay or as a haylage crop, say Extension Animal Nutritionists Steve Boyles and Maurice Eastridge.

"Wheat cut in the boot to very early head-emergence growth stage is suitable for calves or other livestock needing relatively high nutrient content feedstuffs.  Hay yield can be increased by waiting until early milk stage of the grain. This wheat hay is lower in nutrients but is suitable for dry beef cows,” they note.
Boyles and Eastridge provide additional information on this topic in their Wheat For Hay article at www.corn.osu.edu.

(click to enlarge)

You can email Rhonda Brooks at rbrooks@farmjournal.com.

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