Derecho Fields, It’s Time to Walk Away from the Crops

Derecho damage ( Mike Byers )

You’ve never heard Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist, advise walking away from a growing crop—until today. Farmers in the path of the derecho storm need to cut their losses and just work with insurance companies to avoid further heartache.

“Trying to pick this corn up will only lower their insurance check and destroy their combines and drive up drying costs,” Ferrie says. “Grain quality will be challenged by ear molds if they’re going to lay here in the ground another month. Some have already been zeroed out by insurance companies and were disking corn down.”

What’s it take to be zeroed out by insurance companies?

“They’re using yardsticks to measure how flat the corn is,” Ferrie learned. “If it’s lower than 20 inches off the ground it’s zeroed out and counted as unharvestable.”

With each passing week and continued rainfall, fields are getting flatter and flatter and more corn is dying. If the fields aren’t short enough right now, give it a few weeks and they’re likely to meet the threshold to zero out.

What can be done now

While it’s out of your control, the quicker fields get zeroed out, the more time you have to work the fields to prepare them for 2021.

“We can get some of this corn germinated [if it’s zeroed out early] to reduce the amount of volunteer corn next year,” Ferrie says. “Unless this year’s corn is non-GMO I think it would be pretty tough to do corn-on-corn.”

One option to consider is using a moldboard plow to bury the ears deep enough they can’t germinate. He was counting 250 bu. per acre and up yields, there’s a lot of kernels to manage and volunteer corn to prepare for.

If you grow seed corn you’re likely already in discussions or even infields for the company you’re contracted. Ferrie says he’s seeing the fields that had males knocked out combining fields in one direction to pick up every kernel possible. Fields that hadn’t knocked out the males before the derecho storm will have a tougher time because the males will be wrapped up with the females and might render the whole field unharvestable.

Listen here for more of Ferrie’s observations, as well as scouting tips for areas outside of the storm: