Thursday, November 03, 2011

Educational Briefing: Farming after the Flood

2011 Missouri River Flood photos of the impacts of flooding and deposition of sediment and debris on NE farmland. For more photos, please see
James Callan, Scott Olsen, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), and John Wilson posing during briefing.

Educational Briefing: Farming after the Flood

Sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America
Flooding events of this, and previous years have greatly impacted America’s prime farmland. Floodwater left sediment and debris, eroded large parts of producer’s fields, and in many cases, left land devastated. The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) sponsored “Farming after the Flood” on Wednesday, October 26th. The briefing focused on the impacts, mitigation approaches, and costs related to farmland flooding. Three speakers provided information on these main aspects of flooding; they were:

· Scott Olson, a farmer from Tekamah, Nebraska (NE), will discuss the economic and environmental impacts that flooding has had on his family operated corn and soybean farm as well as on other producers in Burt County, NE located near the Missouri River. Since May 28, Scott has documented the 2011 Missouri River Flood with over 3,000 aerial photographs. You can find more photos of the flood at

· John Wilson, an extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, will discuss the common problems farmers encounter in post-flood recovery and present a series of management options for addressing these challenges. John co-leads a team of extension staff from Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to reclaim agricultural land devastated by the 2011 Missouri River Flood.

· James Callan, a crop insurance consultant, will provide insight into the Federal crop insurance program that is available to mitigate the negative economic impacts from flooding damage and crop yield losses. James served six years in USDA, from 2003 to 2009, including as Chief of External Affairs, Associate Administrator, and Acting Administrator of the Risk Management Agency, which administer the multi-billion dollar Federal crop insurance program.

Many fields will need to undergo a significant recovery process to remove barriers to crop production by removing sediment from fields. In many cases, the soil is physically damaged therefore gullies need to be filled and top soil, replaced. Flooded soil syndrome, a condition which occurs when flooding results in fields devoid of plant roots and decreases soil microbial and fungal populations, is also a serious problem. One of the ways to stimulate soil microbial and fungal activity is to plant cover crops. Cover crops protect the soil from erosion, improve the structure for soil, conserve below-ground moisture, and provide a habitat for soil biology. Federal conservation and insurance programs can help offset some of the costs of mitigating the flood impacts. As producers seek to offset their losses from the flood support for these programs are foremost on their minds.

Cooperative extension, education, and research have been fundamental for providing producers with information on how to deal with this unique and devastating situation. The University of Nebraska (UNL) and Iowa State University (ISU) Cooperative Extension have each put together websites to help distribute information about the flooding. UNL and ISU also hosted a webinar for producers in mid-September. You can find an archive of the webinar presentations located here:

The Soil Science Society of America sponsors joint briefings with other organizations several times a year. For more information on the flooded soils briefing, please visit: