Preparing For The Perfect Storm

Anyone who works in agriculture knows weather is an uncontrollable factor farmers face while trying to produce their crop. A weather pattern described as a “perfect storm” is defined by the Collins Dictionary as a combination of events or things that produce an unusually bad or powerful result. 

Top-of-the-news items in the last half of August were the Maui wildfires and what has been described as the “incredibly rare” Hurricane Hilary in California. Both events can be dubbed perfect storms escalated by drought and strong winds in Hawaii and high winds and excess water vapor in the sky in California. At the time of this writing, catastrophic destruction was reported across the island, along with a forecast of extensive flooding from a year’s worth of rain potentially being dropped in the southern part of the Golden State.

Unlike California, Southern farmers and those in the eastern region of Texas are more than familiar with the threat posed by hurricanes. The official season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, although the occasional storm can form on either side of these dates. To aid producers in hurricane preparation and recovery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southeast Climate Hub published a Cotton Producers Guide focusing on 1) site establishments and operations and 2) considerations for defoliation and harvest before and after a hurricane.

The guide’s introduction states, “While hurricanes have always been a threat to the Southeast, with an average of over two strikes per year since 1900, the threat posed by hurricanes is growing. Recent studies suggest that as ocean temperatures continue to rise, hurricane intensity is increasing. Hurricanes of the future will likely be slower moving, higher category hurricanes that produce destructive winds and flooding.”

As harvest draws near, defoliation considerations are important. According to the guide, farmers should “avoid defoliating cotton when a hurricane is approaching unless you think you can harvest it before the hurricane arrives, as the leaves will help protect open cotton from the winds and rain.” If defoliation has begun prior to the hurricane’s arrival, be sure to “resume defoliation as soon as possible after a hurricane to help the cotton ‘straighten’ back up and reduce boll rot….The self-defoliation caused by wind damage is usually not adequate, and defoliants will still need to be applied.”

Although no one would wish for a hurricane to test their level of preparedness, it’s always a good idea to get a head start on Mother Nature.

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