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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network.

Farmers See Wildly Different Yields In Derecho-Damaged Corn Fields

A farmer harvests derecho-damaged corn in central Iowa.
Michael Leland
Iowa Public Radio file photo
A farmer harvests derecho-damaged corn in central Iowa.

Farmers are wrapping up the harvest in much of the Corn Belt and finally seeing how much they can get out of derecho-damaged fields. The August windstorm slammed 3.6 million acres of corn in Iowa alone, leaving some stalks almost flat on the ground and many others standing with a pronounced tilt.

At the time, agronomists said the angle of damage would influence whether the grain could be harvested and they couldn’t predict how much the injured plants would yield. 

Now many of those farmers have answers, but they vary so much that Ben Hollingshead, an agronomist with Key Cooperative in Kelly, Iowa, says there’s no general takeaway.

“Some hybrids, some combines, some of them didn’t do too bad,” he said. “Some of it they might have only got half of it picked up, some of it did a little better--was it the hybrid, the technique? They kind of got what they got. There’s an infinite number of variables. Some of it they were able to get two-thirds of it.”

He says any claims about what worked better should be tempered by the fact that results were so inconsistent across the impacted area.

“You gotta put an asterisk next to it because it’s just, as soon as you make a statement, whether it regards a choice to do termination, or it’s a particular hybrid was worse on the wind,” he says, “I can generally find something to counter that immediately in some other area.”

He says most damaged fields were covered by crop insurance, which farmers told him they were grateful to have, but the types of coverage, the companies and the individual insurance adjusters all played a role in determining whether farmers were instructed to terminate and begin preparing for next year or keep going. Hollingshead said most farmers did maintain at least some of the damaged corn into harvest to see what would happen. 

But with the derecho on top of a season that found many counties in or near drought, Hollingshead says farmers should approach 2021 with a clean slate rather than trying to use data from this season to make decisions for next year, as they normally would.

Copyright 2020 Harvest Public Media

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.