By Mark Watson, Panhandle No-Till Educator
I was visiting with neighbors a few weeks ago about the bountiful harvest we were having in our area on our irrigated crops. The sugar beet and edible bean harvests were both above average in yield provided you had the irrigation water necessary to keep the crop in good shape. The early corn harvest yields were also showing an above average corn harvest could be expected.
The following week “The Wind” came roaring through our region for a couple of days. The airport weather station reported 77 mile per hour winds. I heard wind speeds as high as 84 miles per hour on a neighbor’s weather station. It wasn’t just the strength of the wind speed but also the duration with this type of hurricane force wind blowing for an extended period of time. The severest part of this wind storm lasted for at least 15 hours.
The devastation to this region’s irrigated corn crop was severe. Losses of 100 plus bushels per acre were common. Producers that were hardest hit are reporting yields in the 25 to 70 bushels per acre range where pre wind yields were 200 plus bushels per acre. The economic loss to our area producers is in the millions of dollars.
I haven’t talked to anyone who can recall a loss of corn yield this significant from wind. It isn’t uncommon for corn to receive some loss from wind damage at harvest time, but I don’t think anyone expected a yield loss like we saw with this wind.
Producers are trying different methods of harvesting to recover some of the yield loss by going through the fields a second time with side rakes and putting the remaining corn in windrows to try and pick up some of the lost corn that is on the ground. These extra field operations are expensive to perform and the results of this additional expense have been to recover only a portion of the yield loss.
An additional problem created by “The Wind” will be all the volunteer corn that will be in these fields next year. Additional herbicides will be required to control all the volunteer corn that will be a problem in the following crops planted in these fields.
Maybe it’s time we started giving our winds a name similar to the way hurricanes are named along the coasts. The wind we experienced this fall has definitely created a financial hardship to producers in our region and these types of wind storms may be worthy of a name. I’m not sure how you go about getting name recognition for a wind. These types of wind storms are such a significant part of our lives in the High Plains and leave behind economic hardship when they blow through our region.