Every year, the International Association of Agricultural Insurers (AIAG) organises a seminar at which specialists exchange views on loss assessment issues. This year, the German crop insurers were responsible for organising the event. VEREINIGTE HAGEL, whose Chairman Dr. Rainer Langner is also a member of the Association's Board, was in charge. About 150 experts from 21 countries accepted the invitation to Berlin and Müncheberg and assessed damage patterns that had previously been manually inflicted on the maize plants.
One of AIAG's aims is to promote the exchange of experience among insurers in the field of loss adjustment, as Pascal Forrer, acting President of AIAG, emphasised at a press conference in Müncheberg.
Leibniz Institute as the ideal trial site
The VEREINTE HAGEL team had set up the trials on the premises of the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF, Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung) in Müncheberg. Trial leader Dr. André Schaffasz explains the choice of location: " From the very beginning, we found the necessary infrastructure at ZALF that we needed for our experimental setup. Since ZALF already has experience in setting up drought trials, the contact persons on site were also able to give us valuable practical tips. In addition, the sandy soils in Brandenburg are particularly well suited for simulating drought." In addition to drought, which could be simulated by using so-called "rainout shelters", the plants were also exposed to damage from storms. "While the shelters keep rainwater away from the plants like large roofs, we had to be very hands-on when it came to storm damage," Schaffasz reports. For this, the individual plants were manually bent at about waist height.
Damage due to drought and storm
The damage caused was competently determined by the experts who assessed the trial field in several groups. The lack of rain had caused the graining into the cobs to lag far behind the control plot. The dryness made the synchronisation of flag and grain threads difficult, so that a cob often had only 100 to 150 grains. The thousand-grain mass (TKM) also fell well short of the targeted 400 grams due to the reduced sap flow caused by the storm damage. The challenge for the experts was now to filter out the causes for the individual damages and to determine the total damage. In addition, side effects caused by bubonic blight or maize borer had to be recognised and assessed accordingly. The results of the individual – internationally mixed – groups were presented and discussed in plenary after the practical part.
The day before, the Managing Director of Deutsches Maiskomitee (German Maize Committee), Dr Burkard Kautz, had already given an overview of the importance of global maize cultivation and developments in terms of varieties and yields. Schaffasz, together with his colleague Andreas Meyer, had presented the trial set-up as well as the methodology in the loss assessment. They pointed out that the data provided by the on-site meteosol® weather station had provided valuable information when preparing and conducting the trials. The station also measured a small-scale thunderstorm on 24 July with wind peaks of more than 100 km/h. The fact that this caused additional damage to the manually bent maize was of course not kept from the participants.
Precaution more important than ever
During his presentation, Thomas Gehrke, member of the board of VEREINIGTE HAGEL and overall project manager, also addressed the damage due to severe weather of the current year: "The year 2023 has so far been one of the worst in Germany and in many other countries around the world. Extreme hail events from the Baltic States to Italy, floods in Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, extreme heat waves in Southern Europe and the USA, tropical storms in Southeast Asia are just some of the weather calamities of recent weeks." The images shown unfolded their own effect. All the more reason for Gehrke to emphasise the importance of such a seminar as the one held in Berlin and Müncheberg: "Even though the participating insurance companies may be in competition with each other, they are united by a common goal: the reliable and correct assessment of losses and thus the comprehensible and credible determination of compensation. This year's seminar made a decisive contribution to this. And it has been shown once again that insurance against damage caused by severe weather – not only in Germany or Europe – is of crucial importance for the liquidity and thus the future of agricultural enterprises."