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Responding to Hailstorms

Crystal Stewart, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

June 26, 2013

Responding to Hailstorms
Preparing for hail: There are some normal maintenance activities that will also benefit your plants in the event of a hailstorm. The use of rowcovers may help to diffuse the impact of hailstones and reduce injury to plants, especially when using rowcover and hoops. When deciding how long to leave those covers on, or whether to put them on your later plantings, this is a factor to consider. However, we have also seen rowcovers completely removed by the high winds that can precede hail, so this is certainly not a fail-safe.
The second precaution which will help in the event of hail is the application of a preventative fungicide such as copper or chlorothalonil. Although these products are not rain-fast, we have found that they still help reduce incidence of fungal and bacterial infections from hailstorms.

After hail: The damage left by hail varies tremendously based on the size and shape of the hailstone, the wind velocity of the storm, and the duration of the hail event. Deciding how to respond is really case-by-case. Two farms right next to each other can experience very different levels of damage. However, there are some rules of thumb that generally hold true.

1) Cucurbits are going to look really bad but are likely to recover. Those huge leaves tend to tatter very dramatically during hail, and can look absolutely awful. However, the leaves can also help to protect the growing points, which largely determine whether a plant will recover or not. Generally cucurbits that are old enough to have an established root system and have intact growing points will be able to generate new leaves very quickly and will begin producing fruit within a couple of weeks. To facilitate this process, give some extra nitrogen through the drip system.  Pick and remove summer squash fruit that were damaged by hail if you can.

2) All plants will benefit from a protective fungicide application. After hail, plants have hundreds of small (or large) wounds which leave them extremely vulnerable to diseases. As soon as you can get on the field, apply a protectant such as copper or chlorothalonil (copper will protect from bacterial and fungal diseases so is the better option), even if you applied one before the storm. This will help prevent infection while the plant heals up those wounds.

3) Incidence of bacterial rot in onions is going to increase. We tend to see many more issues with onion storage following hail. Copper may help somewhat, but results have been mixed to poor. 

Deciding what to do with tomatoes can be tricky. According to Dr. Reiners, determinate varieties suffering from moderate to severe damage (think of snapped branches and stripped leaves-Image 1) are most likely to be lost causes because by the time they recover they will practically be at the end of their lives. It is best to pull plants at this threshold out. Indeterminate tomatoes have a better chance of recovering from hail. All fruit which was hit will be relegated to seconds at the very best. Damage can vary greatly by variety because of the differences in canopy cover, so assess each separately. Last year we saw Primo Reds that were a complete loss next to Amish Paste tomatoes which were about 80% ok.

On plants with heavy foliage such as corn and sweet potatoes, a foliar feeding including nitrogen and some micronutrients may be beneficial. Remember that you have to have intact foliage to spray for this to be effective.

Once you have done everything you can to clean up and protect your plants, it is often best from a mental health standpoint to walk away for a few days up to a week. There is a small period of time where this is nothing more to do but let the plants recover. Nice time for a mini vacation. Really.

As always, if you would like help deciding what to do after hail or any other weather event, please give us a call.

 



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Upcoming Events

Women in Agriculture Discussion Group: Apples and Vegetables

September 30, 2019
Monday, 6:00 - 7:30 PM
Lockport, NY

Each monthly Women in Ag discussion group meeting will feature an established, innovative Farm-her leading the group on a tour of her operation and sharing her expertise on business management and production. Several guest speakers, as well as Cornell Vegetable Program staff, will be brought in to act as resource people for developing solutions to common production challenges.

The September 30 meeting will cover season extension, managing CSAs and tarping led by Liz Tee, CCE Lake Ontario Fruit Program, and Elizabeth Buck, CCE Cornell Vegetable Program. The meeting will be hosted by Bree Bacon (McCollum Orchards & Gardens). Bree will share her experience in social media marketing and passive farm income.
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Announcements

Growing for Wholesale Guidelines Available

Grading and packing guidelines are available for 18 commonly grown specialty crops in NYS: acorn squash, broccoli crowns, Brussels sprouts, corn, green peppers, cucumbers, green cabbage, red cabbage, savory cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, jalapenos, poblanos, Hungarian hot peppers, romaine lettuce, summer squash, and zucchini.

Acceptable quality standards and common defects that should be sorted out on the grading line are depicted in these resources, both visually and in outline form.

NY Crop Insurance Availability by County & Crops

Apiculture, Dairy-RP, LGM, Nursery, PRF and WFRP policies are available throughout the entire state. A table has been developed showing RMA crop insurance availability by county and crop in New York State.

If a crop is not covered in your county, you may still be eligible for a written agreement for that crop. Please contact an insurance agent to see if this is an option for you.

More information about crop insurance is available through Cornell's New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

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