SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A line of early morning thunderstorms, 11 confirmed tornadoes and straight-line winds whipped through parts of northern Indiana on July 1, resulting in widespread damage to cornfields and leaving many homes without electricity for two or more days.
While corn damage is still being assessed, it is believed much of the crop, listed by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Great Lakes regional office as 53 percent good and 22 percent excellent, is salvageable – although it may be too early to tell yet.
"Assessing the damage and predicting the eventual effect on grain yield from such damage can be challenging," said Bob Nielson, Purdue University extension corn specialist. "The one certain advice that can be given is that such assessment should not be done the day after the storm. You should wait at least four to five days to allow damaged plants to demonstrate whether or not they will recover."
Bob Yoder, Purdue extension educator in Marshall County, said the majority of the crops there are still satisfactory. "The corn that wasn’t completely down is righting itself," he noted.
Brent and Lisa Blocker, who live near Argos and have 550 acres of corn in Marshall and Fulton counties, had every field hit by the storm. "The low pockets were hit hardest," Lisa said. "We don’t have much hope for the areas that were completely flattened."
Nielson noted three levels of storm damage:
•Simple leaning or bending represents the least damage. Plants should recover most of their uprightness, and if recovery occurs prior to pollination there should be little effect on success of pollination. Pollination may not occur successfully if the damage occurred near the onset of pollen shed and silking. This is due to some shading of exposed silks by leaves and stalks of neighboring lodged plants.
•Root-lodged plants often recover by "goose-necking" or gradually returning to uprightness. If the goose-necking does not occur before pollen shed and silking, there may be shading of exposed silks.
•Green snapped plants – those snapped off below the harvestable ear – represent a direct loss, but plants snapped off above the harvestable ear may produce grain, although less than desired.
Looking past the growing season to harvest, Mark Kepler, Purdue extension educator in Fulton County, expressed concern that combines might not be able to get through tangled rows.
"If you planted your rows north and south and the wind hit from the west, you’re going to have problems," he explained.
Jim Straeter of New Holland Rochester, however, is predicting a normal harvest of what he describes as "hooked" corn.
"We have no special equipment for that," he said. "Patience is the tool to have when harvesting damaged fields."