Gary Overgaard was praying for rain a couple of weeks ago. Now he’s praying for it to stop.
“I’ve been flooded twice in three days with a hailstorm in between,” said Overgaard, who farms corn and soybeans on 650 acres near Magnolia, Minn., just east of Luverne.
The intense rain has flooded hundreds of farm fields across southern Minnesota, and growers were calling their insurance agents, checking their crops and watching the skies Thursday as rain continued to drench much of the area.
Overgaard said about 150 acres of his fields are underwater and will likely be a total loss. “How much damage there’s going to be, we won’t know till things start drying up and the sun comes out,” he said.
But assessing the crop damage won’t take that long in some of the hardest-hit areas.
Mike Crowley, an AgStar crop insurance agent based in Worthington, said he has never seen such severe hail damage in his 32-year career. The worst stretch is about 21 miles long and 14 miles wide in northeastern Rock County and northwestern Nobles County, he said.
“You take 60 and 70 mile-per-hour wind and even dime-sized hail will cut off the plants like a buzz saw,” Crowley said.
Other areas in southwestern Minnesota that escaped hail damage are inundated with water, Crowley said. “We went from the land of 10,000 lakes to 20,000 here in this area alone,” he said, referring to the standing water on many farm fields.
University of Minnesota Extension educator Liz Stahl, based in Worthington, said the crops were healthy last week and corn in the area was 12 to 16 inches tall. Excessive water is a problem because it can kill plants, she said, or put them at risk of diseases that stunt their growth and lower yields.
“Corn and soybeans can typically handle up to 48 hours underwater and come out of it, but we’re past that point already and there’s still a lot of lakes out in these fields,” Stahl said.
For those who lose crops, Stahl said it’s too late to replant corn for grain because it’s unlikely to reach maturity before a killing frost in the fall. But she said some farmers may plant corn for its silage, or livestock fodder.
Another option would be to replant with soybeans, Stahl said — if the fields dry out enough in the next week and if farmers haven’t used certain herbicides on that acreage recently that would damage the beans.
For most farmers, Crowley said, the next step will be talking to insurance agents and scheduling adjusters to view the fields, evaluate what’s left, and determine if it’s worth saving.
In some cases, it may be worth taking the crop to harvest and salvaging as much as possible, Crowley said, and filing an insurance claim to offset the lower yields. In other cases, farmers may plant grass, oats or some other cover crop that could be used for livestock feed, or simply to protect the soil from erosion.
For Overgaard, who has been farming since 1975, crop damage, insurance claims and cleanup will be “a big headache for everyone,” but he said it comes with the territory.
“That’s farming. That’s part of life here so that’s what we deal with.”
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388