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Be timely, safe in cleaning up after flood waters recede

Agriculture.com Staff 06/17/2008 @ 9:48am

Relief is tangible as sunshine parts the clouds over the Midwest farmlands. A warm, drier forecast for the week means moving forward -- with speed and caution, officials say.

Weeds are flourishing in the damp conditions, making the application of post-emergence herbicides important despite the slow development of the corn crop. Farmers should consider the stress level of the corn carefully when making this decision. Be sure to follow the size restrictions that exist on the herbicide label, say Iowa State University (ISU) agronomists.

The height of the corn affects its sensitivity to potential herbicide injury. Taller corn is more susceptible.

"If possible, herbicides should be applied directly post whenever corn exceeds 12 inches tall in order to improve coverage of weeds and reduce exposure of the corn," according to ISU agronomists Mike Owen and Bob Hartzler.

Even preceding the flood, hay fields were thoroughly pummeled by the rain, wind and hail this season, leading to lodged and flat fields. There is still hope for the harvest, and an ISU forage specialist says timeliness is key.

"A bright side of delayed harvest is that the forage plants have longer to accumulate carbohydrate stores and maintain plant vigor," says Stephen K Barnhart. New second-growth shoots will emerge through the lodged layer, he adds.

Producers who managed to cut their hay between storms may not have had time to chop or bale it. Windrows should not be left in place for a long period of time because it can cause smothering or re-growth forage. It should be turned or harvested as soon as possible.

If the hay has deteriorated and lost nutritive value, it may not be worth the effort to bale or use for forage, Barnhart says. Another option is to give up the yield and return the shredded hay onto the field. Take care to ensure the chopped forage is evenly spread.

Flooded buildings have the potential to be extremely hazardous, and farmers should exercise caution when working to repair the damage.

The electrical system is the most pressing safety concern because of the potential for electrocution. Make sure all systems are not energized. All wiring connections, outlets and switches with corrosion need to be cleaned or replaced. Drain water by opening conduits. Have a qualified electrician check any motors affected by the water level.

To help reduce long-term damage, dry walls thoroughly. This can be improved by removing interior wall coverings to prevent future wood and fastener deterioration.

"Rigid board insulation may be re-used but fiberglass and cellulose insulation that has become wet loses its insulation properties," says ISU agricultural and bio-systems engineer Jay Harmon. "Also, A thorough inspection of building integrity, including foundation anchors, should be conducted."

And, watch out for allergens, Harmon adds. Mold and mildew will creep in after the soggy weather. It should be cleaned promptly to prevent negative health effects on workers and animals.

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