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Turning to a positive: SAREC hosts field day for study that utilizes late season hail damaged corn

Written by Emilee Gibb

Lingle – After the disastrous results of a late summer hail storm that moved through eastern Wyoming in late July, researchers at the University of Wyoming (UW) James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) decided to change the destruction into an opportunity to test treatments options for hail damaged corn.

“We felt like we didn’t have great answers to questions producers had,” said Carrie Eberle, UW assistant professor of agronomy and cropping systems.

“We wanted to go ahead and take advantage of this bad situation and put in a study to try and come up with some different options for dealing with this late season corn damage,” she continued.

SAREC hosted the Hail Study Field Day on Oct. 18 to present their current study design and findings.

Corn treatment

“One of the questions we were asked was, ‘How do we deal with this corn in the field that has no leaf material, no grain in it and has no value for silage,” said Eberle.

The study compares four corn management strategies to answer that question, she said.

“We either left the corn standing, chopped it with a stalk shredder and left the biomass in the field or hit the stand of corn with a disk twice to till the field and turn the corn residue under. Our last treatment was using a stalk chopper, then following with a disk and a landstar to finish the tillage treatment,” explained Eberle.

Each corn treatment influences nutrient availability for growing crops the following season.

“They’re going to have different impacts on how nutrients cycle through the system,” said Eberle. “We left all of the corn that we used our fertilizer on in the field all summer to try and get it to grow. Depending on whether we till it in the fall or the spring, we asked, when does that make nutrients available to us for next season’s crop?”

Cover crops

Five different cover crop treatments and a fallow treatment are being used in each of the corn management treatments.

As the farm is used for production, Eberle noted that pesticide use limited the cover crops that could be planted.

“Unfortunately, because we are a production farm, our fields were treated with Vision, which means that we were not able to plant any broadleafs in these fields. There’s a 180-day replant time, so we just did grasses,” explained Eberle.

The study is evaluating wheat, rye, sorghum and two concentrations of triticale.

The wheat, rye and triticale will survive winter and be available in the spring.

“That’s going to bring up different management options for the spring,” commented Eberle.

She noted that the sorghum did not establish well in their fields, but a neighbor’s cover crop was significantly more successful.

“Our neighbor across the road also planted some sorghum two weeks before we did and his looks much better than ours,” said Eberle.

This fall, researchers have assessed how quickly cover crops have grown and taken biomass samples.

“We looked at what our operation costs were, what our seed costs were, what our biomass was getting off it and what that means for grazing these fields,” Eberle continued.

Future work

In two weeks, the fields will be grazed by cattle to look at which treatment and cover crop the animals show a preference for, said Eberle. Researchers will use aerial imaging and forage clippings to measure crop preference.

The percentage of ground cover, as well as soil fertility will be measured in the spring.

The fields will be replanted with corn for the following fall harvest, where researchers will measure corn yield to determine the impact of each cropping strategy.

Eberle does expect there to be more problems with plant disease in corn for next fall.

She noted, “We will probably have more problems with rot in following rotations.”

Eberle also stressed that the research work is still in its early stages, meaning that producers can still bring questions that are not being addressed currently to the attention of the research team.

“If anyone wants to know something different than what we’re telling them now or they have an idea of what they might want us to look at instead, we’re very open to hearing those ideas,” said Eberle. “We’re pretty early in the study, so we can probably still collect some different types of data that farmers might be interested in knowing about.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.