ANDOVER, Ohio — Hail is believed to be the culprit behind widespread crop damage in an area an estimated 3 miles wide and 6 miles long in Ashtabula County.
The storm began in the late afternoon July 25 between 4 and 5 p.m. but the toll won’t be completely known for at least a week, if not longer.
The National Weather Service in Cleveland received several reports of hail accumulation on the ground in the area around state Routes 322 and 46. Some of the hailstones measured 1 inch in diameter at one point during the storm.
One farmer, Ken Coltman, reported receiving more than 2 inches of rain in a 35-minute period.
Tim Krieg, another farmer in the area said it stormed for at least a half hour and when it was finished, there were at least 3 inches of hail on the ground, and near the barn doors, it was piled even higher.
Ken Nims, also described the storm as one that just wouldn’t let up.
“It just kept coming down harder and harder,” Nims said.
As of June 29, things may be looking up, at least for one farmer.
“The crops are starting to look a little better,” said Ken Coltman, a partner in Coltman Farms, about his corn crop. He estimates 220 acres of corn received damage and 180 acres of hay was also hit hard.
“We’re giving it (corn) a few days to see if it comes back. It is probably a 15-20 percent loss, but it is better than a total loss,” Coltman said.
He added a field of hay seven miles away from the majority of fields around state Route 322 was able to be chopped the day after the storm, June 26.
“I guess this is a disadvantage to having everything in one spot,” Coltman said referring to the heavily damaged crops.
Coltman describes the damage to the wheat crop as “deceiving.”
“The wheat is standing, but the kernels are on the ground. All you will get out of it is straw,” Coltman said.
Coltman added the farm lost 40 percent of the second cutting of the hay crop.
He said the waiting game continues for the farm until at least June 30 to determine if some drastic changes need made to the corn crop.
The Krieg farm, operated by Tim, Terry and Gary Krieg on Troutman Road, is reporting damage to 350 of the 415 acres of crops planted this spring.
In addition, the hail is blamed for breaking windows in barns, damaging vehicles, creating holes in roofs, and even taking the paint off buildings.
The hail hit so hard it knocked corn down that was 3 feet high to less than 10 inches.
The leaves on the corn plants were destroyed, wheat was knocked out of the hulls and the alfalfa was shredded, dashing hopes for the second cutting of hay from it.
“The wheat crop is literally on the ground,” Krieg said.
Krieg immediately went to work after the storm.
“I knew we were in uncharted territory with this kind of damage,” Krieg said.
Surveying fields. A team of chemical dealers, seed dealers and the Ashtabula County Ohio State University agriculture educator assembled June 25 to survey crop damage at farms in the area.
The Krieg farm does carry crop insurance and a claim was filed July 26 but the adjuster wasn’t expected to look at the fields for a few days.
The wait begins
The day-after tour brought good and bad news for the Krieg and the Nims farms.
The first corn field visited near the Kriegs’ home farm appeared damaged but, to the Kriegs’ surprise, the damage on the field is not permanent and the plants are expected to recover as long as the stress on the plants can be kept low.
“One month from now and that corn plant will not even know the leaves had been there,” said Bill Mondak, an account manager for Rosen’s Inc.
The growth point in the plants in the field off of Troutman Road were not damaged and can still grow and develop.
Crop delay. “It’s not shut down completely,” said Dave Marrison, Ashtabula County OSU ag educator.
Marrison added the corn would probably be delayed in maturity between a week and 10 days.
“The plant will survive. It’s not as bad as it looks. The corn will make ears,” said Gary Marcy, Western Reserve Co-op.
A second corn field surveyed was not in the same shape and a decision about what to do next with the field will have to be made. The field contains 24 acres of corn.
This field was different because the hail actually pushed the corn plants over and bruised the plant. White spots, which are the bruises, were found on the majority of the plants in the field and they won’t recover. They will, instead, get worse, with fungus and disease entering the plant through those bruises.
The Kriegs are awaiting the crop adjuster’s visit before a final determination is made on what to do.
The soybean fields appeared to be the least damaged.
Ken Nims, a farmer in nearby Colebrook, is also in limbo on the status of his crops. He is worried about crop survival and yield as well, but after a look at the field, Marcy gave him some reassurance.
“It looks terrible now, but give it 10 days,” Marcy said. “They look ugly, but I think you will be surprised.”
However, Nims is still unsure about what he should do next with his fields, if anything.
Only time will tell if the crops will recover or the farmers will need to take a different route in their plans.