Hail Damage in North Florida Watermelons

Web AdminFlorida

Submitted photo by De Broughton, 6 Gen Ag Services/Shows hail damage on a watermelon in North Florida.

By Clint Thompson

Hail damage in some North Florida watermelon fields should prompt those producers to take action to preserve the crop’s well being amid the current harvests.

Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Regional Specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida, talks about the damage sustained last week.

“I don’t want to make it seem like this is really, really widespread. All total, it is a very small percentage of the acreage in the region that would be in question. But nonetheless, if it happens to be one of your fields that’s in question, it’s pretty painful,” Hochmuth said. “There are some secondary things that need to be followed up on. We need to nurse the fields back to good health.”

Protect Against Disease

Fields with hail damage need to be protected from potential disease. UF/IFAS recommends growers to utilize a broad-spectrum material such as mancozeb (Manzate, Penncozeb at a 5-day preharvest interval), Inspire Super (7-day preharvest interval) or Aprovial Top (0-day preharvest interval).

Growers with damage to the leaf canopy now have fruit that are exposed and vulnerable to sunburn. Applications of materials like kaolin clay and other sun-shielding materials are advised. Spray with water only and according to label directions.

The region experienced three straight evenings last week of hail being reported somewhere.

“We do have several reports of hail, most of which don’t seem to be too concerning,” Hochmuth said. “If it is a short, small hailstorm, it’s not good and the plants recover. But when it gets to be a long period of larger size hail then you really begin to break down the canopy of the crop where it breaks the petioles, stems and the leaves and almost looks like somebody went in there with a mower or weed eater. Those are the fields that are much more concerning when that happens.”