Dec 3, 2012Sandy’s effects on fruit being measured
Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, was a tough blow to growers who already had to deal with a rough spring, and a boom for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.
Sandy was the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history, only surpassed by Katrina in 2005, according to The Weather Channel.
In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states, from Florida to Maine and as far west as Wisconsin. New Jersey and New York took the brunt, however, according to The Weather Channel.
As if the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, it was followed closely by a Nor’easter, named for the winds that blow in from the northeast and drive the storm up the east coast along the Gulf Stream, according to The Weather Channel. That hit the same area with more rain, high winds and much colder temperatures, which brought snow and ice.
Sandy damaged more than just the United States as it moved up from the south. Crop losses in the Caribbean were heavy, with Cuba losing most of its coffee crop and Haiti losing 70 percent of all crops, said Milt McGiffen, a vegetable crop specialist with the University of California, Riverside. Crop losses in the United States appear to have been minor, largely because most of the crops on the East Coast were already harvested, he said.
The storm’s effects decreased greatly as it moved inland, McGiffen said.
“My contacts in Reading and central Pennsylvania did not see much, other than some rain,” he said.
In New Jersey, perhaps hardest hit by the storm, damage was massive, said Win Cowgill, a professor and Extension educator with Rutgers University.
“All in all, most fruit trees were not damaged too severely – most trellis’ have held up well,” he said. “I have not had major reports of orchard damage. Infrastructure is another matter – many deer fences have been crushed, roof damage and hoop house damage is extensive.”
Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, said he had not heard any comments about damage to orchards or trees.
“Perhaps some minor damage on Long Island, but there’s not much production out there,” he said. “We dodged the bullet on severe damage, compared to the residents of down state.”
FDA issued a report that recommends fruits and vegetables inundated by floodwater cannot be properly cleaned and should be destroyed. Fresh fruits and vegetables that have begun to spoil due to the lack of refrigeration should also be destroyed.
Even if the crop is not completely submerged, there may still be contamination, according to FDA. There is also the potential for plants to take up contaminants. Mold and toxins may develop as a result of exposure to flood water.
The massive amount of water is cause for serious concern, said Ann Kopecky, a representative from Alltech, a health and nutrition company based in South Dakota.
“These environmental factors are precursors for fusarium mold growth on crops that are still in the field or stored where weather can affect them,” she said. “Many of the crops in this region have been harvested, but not all.”
The damage may not seem bad, but can readily be seen the following season, according to an entry on Fast Growing Trees.com, a blog about tree growth. Fruit trees may have been damaged enough that they will not come out of dormancy next spring, the blog said. The high winds, salty water, flooding or heavy rains may lead to no fruit set the following season. That means a loss of at least one year’s fruit. For younger trees, it may lead to stunted growth. Other effects of high, sustained winds can range from poor production, scarring of fruit, fruit fall and even failure to fruit, according to the blog.
The biggest economic loss has been the closing of markets, Cowgill said. New Jersey’s direct market growers rely extensively on the tailgate markets in the fall for income, participating in 2 to 20 markets per week in N.J. and the New York City green market system.
“Many of these markets have been canceled the last two weeks at a tremendous loss of revenue for our growers- some of the N.Y. City markets were hardest hit,” Cowgill said.
What to do?
According to USDA, producers with damaged farms should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) may be able to assist growers with repairs to farms or with debris removal. FSA has $15.5 million available for producers in counties that received a major disaster declaration. Growers not located in counties that have been declared a major disaster should visit a local FSA office for information on ECP, if funding becomes available.
USDA’s Risk Management Agency said growers with questions on planting, replanting, or crop losses should contact their crop insurance agent for information. Growers needing emergency credit may receive assistance through the Emergency Loan Program. Growers are eligible for these loans as soon as their county is declared a disaster area.
Growers with federal crop insurance, or looking for help under the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program, are covered when floodwaters have rendered their crops valueless. USDA is urging growers to contact crop insurance companies and local FSA service centers to report damage to crops and trees. More information about federal crop insurance can be found at www.rma.usda.gov. Additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding and other damage can be found at www.usda.gov/disaster