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An early spring hail storm can severely damage young grain sorghum plants. In some cases, entire plants can be shaved off to ground level. However, if the growing point is below the soil surface when hail damage occurs, many of the plants may survive, grow, and achieve near normal yield potential.
After an initial assessment of crop hail damage, farmers should wait 7 -10 days before making a final evaluation. Like some other crop plants, grain sorghum does not need all of the leaf surface area it produces. Even shredded and broken leaves are capable of some photosynthesis if they are still connected to the plant. With sufficient heat and moisture, surviving plants should show signs of regrowth within a week after hail damage.
“We would not rush a decision to keep a hail damaged crop, start over, or plant something else,65533;? says Calvin Trostle, professor and Extension agronomist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “We have seen young grain sorghum almost completely recover from severe hail damage (Table 1). The recovery was almost too good to be true.65533;? (C. Trostle, personal communication, April 24, 2015)
Trostle also encourages farmers to inspect grain sorghum stalks for bruising caused by hail. If the growing point is above the soil surface when hail strikes, the stalk may be bruised and the growing point may be killed. Even severely damaged plants may develop tillers that may contribute to yield in younger sorghum.
“After 7-10 days, see if any leaves are coming out,65533;? Trostle says. For older plants (six weeks or more) cut some stalks length wise and look at the growing point. If the growing point is brown and mushy, it is not viable. But, if the plant is young enough, it could still put out tillers. Don’t expect the same results with a 30-day or older plant. Any tillers older plants put out would be so far behind undamaged plants they would probably not contribute to yield.65533;?
Management of surviving hail damaged grain sorghum should not be much different than for a normal crop. Trostle recommends fertilizing and controlling weeds and insects as needed.
“Farmers may be encouraged to apply foliar nutrients to stimulate the plants, or fungicides to protect damaged tissue from infection,65533;? he says. “These are probably not necessary. If the stand and canopy has been significantly thinned down, farmers should monitor weed control effectiveness; stay on top of in-season weed control.65533;?
Trostle says growers should maintain their weekly scouting for insects and manage as needed.
If a young (< 3 weeks) grain sorghum stand is thinned significantly by hail damage, replanting the thinned areas might be an option. “If farmers decide to replant to fill thinned areas, they should consider planting an earlier maturing grain sorghum so all the plants will still mature in a similar time frame,65533;? Trostle says. “If the thinned stand is fairly uniform, with at least a 50% stand, I would take a uniform stand over attempting to interplant for a higher population.65533;?
Finally, Trostle notes that farmers with hail damaged grain sorghum should expect harvest to be delayed perhaps 7-10 days, especially if additional tillering is triggered.
Source: 1Bremer, J., Coffman, C., and Livingston, S. Assessing hail and freeze damage to field corn and sorghum. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. http://varietytesting.tamu.edu. Web source verified 04/24/2015. 150424044707