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Fire and Wind Damage to Fields

Fire Damage to Fields

Am grateful for reports of few people hurt, many homes saved, and I think most cattle saved too from Sunday’s fires. I really can’t imagine how all that works with that many firefighters, first responders, and farmers showing up with equipment driving blind into smoke/dust/fires and everyone staying safe, but am grateful. With Sunday’s winds and the fire damage throughout the State, have received questions on what to do next in these damaged fields and what to anticipate for soil impacts. 

For fields that were harvested with residue burned, we’re recommending to get rye or wheat planted into them to potentially get some cover on these fields. I know it’s dry. We keep hoping for moisture with each of these potential rains forecasted (including this week). But if there’s any chance to get some cover, I’ve seen 1″ tall rye produce up to 3″ roots and watched how that size of rye helped this past spring with the winds and in 2019 in helping hold soil during the floods. Rye can germinate down to 32F soil temperature and wheat can germinate down to 39F. So that’s our recommendation. If you have smaller areas where you can get manure on that has any type of bedding in it, that also could help.

A few calling from Nuckolls Co. have wondered about fire damage to long-term no-till. Fire itself won’t damage no-till from the standpoint of the soil structure built. It will remove residue and the organic matter from the residue, but the fire itself doesn’t impact organic matter. Fire and the resulting ash does impact water infiltration as the ash can clog soil pores. Wind erosion can also ‘seal off’ the soil surface which can reduce water infiltration. Thus another reason why drilling a small grain in hopes of disturbing the ash and getting cover established may help.

Nitrogen and sulfur to a small extent are released to the atmosphere during fire, and nitrogen and other nutrients become more available in the soil due to quick mineralization from the fire. Nutrients from the residue will be contained in the ash which can be lost to wind erosion, but those nutrient losses are fairly minimal overall. To read more on soil impacts, see this resource from Montana State. It has an interesting chart showing the amount of N, P, K in the top 6″ of soil and then compares how much is removed from stover that’s harvested or burned. The numbers for residue removal aren’t exactly the same as what we share for Nebraska, but they’re in line. 

Plan on soil testing, may be wiser next spring, to determine nutrient levels in these fields prior to planting. The combination of drought + fire may result in greater nitrogen availability than what one may think.

Fire can often aid grasslands, so would say to let pastures work to recover on their own for now.

I hope all the fields impacted were harvested, but if you have a field that wasn’t, please give me a call and we can talk through that. Ultimately, what we’ve been recommending for fields in this situation in northeast Nebraska has been to harvest the fields as normal and send in grain samples to get a feed value and also quality value. All those fields have been corn fields so far. Dr. Mary Drewnoski has put together information on feeding burned corn that we can share for anyone who needs that.

Wind Damage to Replant Corn Fields

I had been watching different forecasters talking about last weekend for a few weeks. Grateful it wasn’t like they were originally predicting. So last Friday I had popped into fields to see how stalks were holding up. From what I was seeing in the replant corn, I figured a lot of the tops would blow out as plants were quickly losing strength above the ears. Was seeing up to 35% stalk rot (base of plants) in irrigated fields and over 50% in non-irrigated. So far, have seen good shank attachment and ear attachment within the shanks. Grateful for how the ears have held on and the bottoms of plants have held up thus far!

In saying this, it’s honestly a matter of time before these replant corn plants will go down and/or potentially drop ears. I seek to be positive, but I also want to be honest with what I’m seeing. I’m hearing the wind dried corn down compared to last week. Please be checking moistures in your fields. I realize everyone’s situations vary with bins, etc.; it may be wise to keep harvesting a little at a time and drying in between instead of waiting for it to dry in the field this year. 

If you’re willing to share your replant corn test weights anonymously, please do so here:

JenREES 7-12-20

Wind-damaged Corn: The evening/early morning hours of July 8-9 caused quite a bit of IMG_20200709_105000damage to corn fields for some of you reading this. It’s always hard to see crop damage. For field corn, it came at a critical time prior to pollination. The severity and amount of recovery for every field situation will vary depending on the soil moisture at time of the wind, root mass structure, hybrid planted, severity of leaning/bent/snapped plants, and growth stage of the plants. It will also depend on where the bending and snapping of those plants occurred. ‘Recovery’ encompasses the plants righting themselves, re-establishing roots, and re-orienting leaves as they have the ability to bend and grow up towards the sunlight in areas of the plant where plant tissues were not yet lignified (hardened). We know hybrids have been bred to better withstand greensnap. We know that plants that are leaning due to root lodging may have better ability to upright themselves (and have seen this in some fields since the storm). We also know that it is harder for plants near tasseling to upright themselves compared to plants at earlier vegetative stages.

What to expect? It really depends on the conditions outlined above. We all will learn a lot and I encourage us to share what we are observing. For fields very close to tassel with severe bending near ears, we may see pollination, possibly even ear formation issues. There may be fields that were leaning and will have minimal impacts after uprighting themselves. The main research I can find regarding corn lodging yield impacts comes from the University of Wisconsin in 1988. In the study, they manually lodged corn at various growth stages over 2 years to determine yield impacts. Corn lodged at V10-V12 resulted in a yield reduction of 2-6%. Corn lodged at V13-15 resulted in a yield reduction of 5-15%. Corn lodged after V17 resulted in a 12-31% yield reduction.

What to do? Recommend waiting, observing, call your crop insurance adjuster. Don’t apply products right now. Economically, we need to see how each field recovers before putting more into the crop. Plants are already stressed so give them time to try to recover. A respected agronomist shared another point with me-that adding heavy amounts of water right now can add weight onto the plants and keep them sticking together when they’re trying to separate. For those who were planning on fertigation, I’ve seen soil sample results and heard from several people that we’re seeing increased mineralization this year in fields due to the heat. It may be worth a tissue and/or soil test to see if you really need additional nitrogen (final application at brown silk). Regarding fungicides, my recommendation prior to the storm was to wait till at least brown silk (or after) due to low disease pressure, uneven growth stages in fields, waiting for southern rust, and economics; I stand by that after this storm. Fungicides can’t help much with the plant stress being experienced.

Spidermites have been found in low levels in corn, but in some cases, fairly high levels in soybean. Higher levels have been observed in stressed fields (due to off-target herbicide damage and/or beans stressed due to drought). If you’re noticing pockets in fields that appear to be yellow/brown/dying and spreading, check the top side of the leaf for stippling (yellow needle-like pin-pricks) and undersides for webbing and mites. Seeing them in non-stressed beans at low levels as well. Check out this information from Illinois for guidelines on when and how to control: tweet

Gardening Resources: Nebraska Extension is hosting a series of 12 virtual learning sessions for home gardeners to discuss timely issues around vegetable gardening and trees. Each session will include a short (15-20 minute) presentation on the specified topic and opportunities for participants to chat about their issues and “ask the expert”. Sessions will be each Tuesday through September at 7 p.m. CST. Participants can register via – you can register for all the sessions you’re interested in at one time. You can also view the series via this Facebook post:

grobigred series

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