Assessing Crop Hail Damage

Hail storms are common in many areas of the country and crop damage ranges from moderate to a total loss. The impact of hail on plant tissue depends on the size of the hailstones, duration of the storm, and the growth stage of the plants.

Mark Licht is an Extension cropping systems specialist at Iowa State University. He says hail storms are an emotional event and you will be tempted to run out to your fields and assess the damage right after it happens. But his advice is to wait.

"We don’t truly know how the plant’s going to recover until we start seeing that plant recover," says Licht. "And so, waiting 5-10 days is really quite beneficial because then we truly see how much loss there is, how that plant’s going to recover, if we’ve lost the growing point, things like that."

When you do go out, Licht says the first thing he recommends is to identify the worst affected areas, the least affected areas, and do a stand assessment.

"How many plants do we have out there, how many viable plants do we have out there? And that really is quite useful because it starts to tell us what is our yield potential with the current stand that we have, at the current level of defoliation," he says. "When we do those stand assessments, it’s identifying how much leaf area we lost and in the case of soybeans, how many nodes did we lose, did we lose that apical meristem or not?"

At this point you will need to calculate the profitability of the existing stand versus the costs of replanting. As we get further into the growing season, the risk of yield loss after replanting is much higher due to late maturity and fall frost.