Storm Damage in South Central Minnesota

July 10, 2017


Strong thunderstorms moved through South Central Minnesota late on July 9 and early on July 10, with large hail and strong winds. There were even a couple of tornadoes spotted in northwestern Blue Earth County late on Sunday evening. There were reports of some building damage and tree loss from the storms, as well as significant hail damage in some locations. Farm operators and crop consultants are still in the process of analyzing the extent of the crop damage.

Some of the larger corn is very near the tasseling and pollination stage, which makes it quite vulnerable to hail damage. If corn tassels are severely damaged just prior to pollination, there could be significant yield reductions. Soybeans that are partially damaged could have some recovery following hail damage; however, damaged plants with severe stem injury could incur further losses later in the growing season. In most instances, final crop losses will probably not be known until harvest season this Fall. Most producers will likely not be replanting either corn or soybeans at this late date. Even the very earliest varieties of soybeans that are planted in mid-July in Southern Minnesota would only have a realistic yield expectation of 20-25 bushels per acre, assuming there is even a harvestable crop.

Farm operators with hail insurance coverage may be able to collect an insurance payment, based on the assessed damage. Farmers with federal crop insurance coverage will likely need to wait until after harvest to determine if there is a large enough loss to receive a crop insurance indemnity payment. A majority of farmers in the Upper Midwest insure their corn and soybeans with a crop insurance policy utilizing “enterprise units”, which group all acres of a given crop in a County together for calculating potential crop loss, and makes it more difficult to receive insurance indemnity payments. By comparison, producers with crop insurance policies utilizing “optional units”, which insures crops down to individual sections within a Township, tend to fare much better for potential crop insurance indemnity payments when dealing localized crop losses from hail or drown-out damage.

When it comes to crop production, most long-term farm operators are often heard saying that “no two years are the same”. That statement is certainly true in many portions of Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa as it relates to the 2017 growing season, in comparison to the previous year. The 2016 crop year featured almost ideal growing conditions in many areas of the Upper Midwest, and resulted in record corn and soybean yields in both Minnesota and Iowa, as well as for many individual producers. Portions of Southern Minnesota did not fare quite as well in 2016, due to excessive rainfall throughout much of the growing season, which resulted in below average corn yields for the year.

The first half of the 2017 growing season has been much different with some areas Eastern Corn Belt dealing with very late planting, with other portions of the Midwest experiencing excessive rainfall and hail damage. Moderate to extreme drought conditions exist in many areas of North and South Dakota, with some enhanced dry conditions extending into portions of Western Minnesota and Iowa as well. In areas of the Upper Midwest that have not dealt with severe storms and other weather challenges, crop conditions have improved considerably in late June and early July. Above normal growing degree units (GDU’s), along with adequate soil moisture, has resulted in very favorable growing conditions in these areas.

The accumulation of GDU’s at the U of M Southern Minnesota Research Center totaled 995 GDU’s from May 1 through July 5, 2017, which is about 4 percent above normal, but trailed the 2016 GDU accumulation of 1,045 on July 5. Some of the corn in Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa that was planted in late April was just beginning to tassel on July 10. Most of the corn in the region should tassel and pollinate from July 10 to July 25, which means that mid-July weather conditions in the Corn Belt will be very critical in determining final corn yield levels for 2017.

June rainfall amounts were quite variable across the region, with some areas of Upper Midwest, receiving excessive amounts of rainfall during mid-June, while other areas ended the month a bit dry. Total rainfall at the Waseca Research Center in the month of June was 4.14 inches, which slightly below the long-term average June rainfall. The total precipitation for 2017 through June 30 at Waseca was just over 16.5 inches, which is very near normal. There were some areas of Southern and Western Minnesota, as well as Western Iowa that ended June quite dry. Portions of the region did receive some needed rainfall with the severe storms this past weekend. Most of North and South Dakota remained extremely dry into early July, with rapidly worsening drought conditions in several areas.

Based on the weekly July 2nd USDA Crop Progress Report, 68 percent of the corn and 64 percent of the soybeans in the United States were rated “good” to “excellent”, which is slightly above the 10-year average for early July. The 2017 crop ratings compare to 79 percent of the corn and 70 percent of the soybeans in the U.S. being rated “good” to “excellent” in early July of 2016. As of mid-June, USDA was projecting a 2017 national average corn yield of 170 bushels per acre and a U.S. average soybean yield of 48 bushels per acre. Many private analysts feel that the 2017 USDA crop yield projections may be a bit optimistic, given some of the weather challenges that exist in portions of the Corn Belt.

In Minnesota, 80 percent of the corn and 72 percent of the soybeans were rated “good” to “excellent”, with only 3 percent of the corn rated “poor” or “very poor”. In Iowa, 78 percent of the corn and 72 percent of the soybeans were rated “good” to “excellent”. By comparison, in the drought-stricken States of North and South Dakota, only of the 55 percent of the corn and 48 % of the soybeans in North Dakota, and 48 percent of the corn and 36 percent of the soybeans in South Dakota, were rated “good” to “excellent”. Nearly one-fourth of the corn and soybean crop in South Dakota was rated as “poor” or “very poor”, and conditions in both States have been deteriorating.


Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and

Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN.  (Phone — (507) 381-7960);

E-mail —


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