Farmers Must Deal with Flooded Crops Now and at Harvest

News from Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, Posted on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 10:32am

As the water recedes from last week’s rains, farmers are now left to deal with the aftermath of damaged crops. There are immediate concerns for crops already harvested and future concerns for crops yet to be harvested. In each case, farmers should try to segregate storage flooded crops from unaffected crops.

The immediate concern now is for baleage (large wrapped round bales) that have been sitting in flood water. If the bales do not have water inside the wrapping and the wrapping is intact it is best to leave them alone. Evaluate the feed for spoilage and soil contamination when the bales are open to feed out. If the wrapping is full of water or damaged, the bales must be rewrapped to preserve what feed can be salvaged. Before rewrapping, any part of the bale that is saturated or muddy must be cut off to prevent contamination of the good feed that is left in the bale. Failure to do so will result in spoilage of the rewrapped bales, wasting both time and money. Bales with a large percentage of damaged feed will not be worth saving.

Later farmers will have to deal with harvesting crops that have sediment left on them from the flood waters. Rains between now and harvest may wash some sediment off the plants; however it will also move that sediment into crevices between leaves and stems that will remain until harvest time. This contamination at harvest can result in spoilage of the stored crop, higher ash content of the crop, and/or palatability problems feeding the crop. These crops should be stored separately so they can be handled properly at feed out.

Some things farmers can do to reduce issue at harvest are as follows:

  • Crops that will be combined should be allowed to dry as much as possible in the field.
  • Combines and cleaners should have fans set high to blow as much foreign material out of the grain as possible.
  • Watch for heating in storage and test for mycotoxins prior to feed out.
  • Ensiled crops should be cut high to leave the most contaminated lower portion of the plant in the field.
  • Using propenoic acid as a preservative should reduce spoilage potential.
  • Again test the feed for mycotoxins as well as ash prior to feed out.
  • Dry hay should be dried well in the field and use of a preservative at baling will be helpful.
  • Test hay before feed out.

With the potential loss of crops many farmers will be looking to buy feed. The Farm Service Agency provides a free service on the web for both hay buyers and sellers. This is a national service that is broken up by states. There is no charge to advertise on this web page. You simply fill out an online form with your name and contact information. For this service go to , click on the “Online Services” button at the top of the page, then “Hay Net” on the right side. Take a few minutes and check this service out. The more people that use this service locally, the more useful it will be.

For more information on crop production, contact your local Cornell University Cooperative Extension office. In Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties, contact Dean Sprague in the Ellicottville office at 716-699-2377, ext. 123 or e-mail das57 [at] cornell [dot] edu.