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Hail, rains damage crops

<i>Steve Dzubay photo</i> Officials say it will be several days until its known whether damaged corn stalks and soy beans will recover from hail damage. This field is north of 690th Avenue in the town of Clifton.

While official damage estimates aren't available, crops in a wide swath of western Pierce County were damaged by hail, strong winds and heavy rains Friday June 25.

According to preliminary reports, hundreds of acres of Pierce County cropland had significant damage and thousands of acres sustained some damage.

Linda Paul of Farm Service Agency's Ellsworth office had surveyed the area and calculated damage estimates but said Monday that she couldn't release the information yet.

Pierce County UW-Extension Agent Greg Andrews, who did a perimeter study of the area Saturday afternoon, said most of the crop damage was in the towns of Clifton, Oak Grove and River Falls.

He said the worst damage was east and west along County Road E and along 620th Avenue. Andrews estimated the affected area is about three miles wide north and south and six to seven miles wide east and west.

Sheriff's deputies reporting from the field on Friday night described the hail as pea- and dime-sized.

Andrews said most of the hail was small and wouldn't have done as much damage had it not been for the strong winds.

He said the hail came across the St. Croix River and did its most harm about a mile into Pierce County. There were reports of roof, window and siding damage, especially in the Prescott area.

The biggest decision for farmers now is whether to replant, said Andrews.

"The corn replanting is out of the question, except for maybe silage," he said.

But farmers could decide to replant soybeans.

"It is too late?" asked Andrews. "The answer is it's not too late, but for every day after May 5, the research data shows we lose 4/10 of a bushel per day."

Using that formula, he said, farmers could expect a yield potential of 20-25 bushels per acre for soybeans. A good per-acre yield for soybeans is around 50 bushels.

"Small grains got hit pretty hard because they were heading out," said Andrews of damage to rye and barley crops.

Estimates of crop damage aren't available yet. Andrews said any plant injury increases the potential for disease, so insurance adjustors wait 5-7 days to make an assessment.

Rainfall amounts varied from 1.28 inches on the south side of River Falls to three-plus inches just a few miles outside city limits overnight Friday. Rainfall overnight Saturday in River Falls totaled .85 inches.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.