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Healing Hail Damage Depends On Timing

Sara Gateman measures for the average height of peas within a plot with hail damage of 33 per cent.

Despite the relatively dry weather we’ve received in Southern Alberta this season, hail is still a prevalent occurrence. The big questions on everyone’s mind are how does timing factor into hail damage recovery and what can we do to help it heal?

Jazlyn Pedersen, a summer student at Farming Smarter, said the answer is in the data.

The Farming Smarter team spent Friday morning measuring the height and biomass of both the damaged and undamaged crops within our hail trials. Our focus is on three variables: damage level, timing and foliar applied rescue treatment.

“All these heights are supposed to be around the same unless there is a natural deviation,” said Pedersen, “but then all of a sudden you have a big drop in the numbers. Obviously, something was different – and it happens to be the damage.”

Farming Smarter has found that crops with early damage rebound better and produce a bigger yield than crops damaged later in the season.

“It’s incredible how resilient plants are to stuff like that,” said Sara Gateman, another summer student.

Pedersen agreed, stating that she was originally surprised at the results, expecting the crops to stop growing and bow down in the face of the natural conditions.

“You can see that these ones,” Gateman said, pointing to a bean crop, “are definitely damaged but not completely destroyed.”

She motioned to the flowers, saying the crop probably had one pass of damage with the hail simulator and it was early on.

Ken Coles stands next to and describes the hail simulator at the 2016 Lethbridge Plot Hop.

The hail simulator is made up of a rotating cylinder attached to a tractor. The surface has 72, 2 ft long chains that pass over the crops, simulating 0 per cent [no damage], 33 per cent and 67 per cent damage in crops.

Some crops have more natural resistance than others. Early season wheat damaged plots yielded within a few bushels per acre of the untreated plots, even in the heavy damaged plots (67%).

It is still inconclusive as to whether fungicide and nutrient treatments have a positive effect on the crops after hail damage. Jamie Puchinger, the assistant manager at Farming Smarter, said the results vary from location to location. The trial is being conducted at Vegreville, Falher and Lethbridge and there may be some regional differences.

The hail recovery project is set to finish in 2019. Finalized results and details will be available for viewing on the project page following the trials close.