The local community in the three regions under study is the primary focus of attention on hail damage and approaches to mitigate its effects since it is the common unit that is affected by the disaster and most importantly on the manner in which to deal with the issue. The people at the community level suffer the adverse effects and as such have to come up with strategies to cope and survive the hail damages effects since they have to protect themselves from the damage and harm of the hail storms. Hail has huge economic impact on the society sine it destroys the agricultural products such as maize, lettuce, cabbages and onions just to mention but a few.
The three communities have prior knowledge on the effects of hail on the crops as well as the relevant approaches to mitigate it effects. For instance, the community understands that vegetable crops damaged by hail tear, defoliate and shred their leaves. Moreover, the crops stems are broken, wounded or bruised while the fruits are bruised and wounded and as such causing a significant loss of flowers which in the end leads to low production rates. The community is aware that the damage that comes along with the hail differs immensely based on the size of the hail and the duration that the hail will last. The farmers have in mind that though two farms are right next to each other, the levels of damage to the crops may not be the same. For instance, during the hail period, the huge leaves of crops such as cabbages tend to tatter very intensely and can appear to be extremely awful. The ability of such crops to recover or not is solely dependent on the ability of the leaves to protect the growing parts of the crop. Since the farmers in the three areas under study have experienced different levels of hail damages, they are aware that the crops affected develop a great number of small or large wounds which leaves them extremely susceptible to crop-related diseases. For example, the incidence of bacterial rot in onions is directly proportional to the duration of the hail. The community acknowledges that the level of hail damage varies significantly with the variety of the crop because of the differences in the canopy cover of each and every type of crop.
Farmers in Ulundi, for instance, are aware that the consequences of different levels of hail damages at various stages of the crop growth remains unclear for most crops despite the size of the farming industry in the area. The magnitude of the hail enables the farmers to know the appropriate manner to care for the damaged crops and return them to their usual state. The three areas under study have four climate seasons in a year, and the farmers are aware that damage to the crops is most severe when hail falls during the spring period because at such time most of the crops are developing and growing leaves and stems that are very tender. As such hail crop damage during the spring season may kill the seedlings completely and later in the season reduce the levels of production since the hail will knock off the fruits from the crops. For instance, the greatest percentage of the farmers who participated in the study are aware that some crops such as cabbages will be damaged but have a possibility of surviving during hailstorms. Moreover, most farmers are positive that most of the crops tend to survive during such occurrences but depending on the level of the hailstorm.
The farmers in the three communities are aware that hail damage cannot be completely avoided but rather can be minimized based on the farmers preparedness before the hailstorms. It is possible to protect crops from hail damage in areas that have routine severe hailstorms. The farmers are prepared with items to put over their crops such as buckets and trash cans. They also carefully assess the weather conditions to prevent hail damage in their gardens. They pay close attention to weather reports and act hastily to protect their crops from enduring heavy hailstorms. As such, they can manage much of the damage to their crops and end up with bountiful harvests and healthy crops. However, at times the levels of damage to the crops are too severe and fixing the hail damage tends to be impossible. Affected plants should be removed and switched with new ones. The farmers in the three communities are aware that applying extra nitrogen to crops recovering from hailstorms encourages new growth but only where it is suitable.
Response of maize cultivators to hail damage under field conditions
The greatest percentage of the farmers believe that maize crops affected by hailstorms will be damaged but will survive in the long run while the smaller percentage believe that the maize crops will die completely. Hail damage goes hand in hand with a decrease in the production rates depending on the timing of the hailstorms as compared to the development of the crop. The development point of a young maize crop remains under the soil until about the sixth leaf stage. This will protect the critical developing part from defoliation and as such the new leaves will start shooting from the undamaged developing parts within a few days leading to the normal growth of the crop and reduced yield loss. However, hail damage that may occur after the sixth leaf stage is likely to reduce the yield of the maize crop due to the loss of the photosynthetic area of the leaf. Moreover, maize crops are extremely prone to hail damage around this stage. Reduction in the maize yields as a result of hail damage is caused by a significant loss of the leaves. Hail primarily affects the production by decreasing stands and defoliating the maize plant and as such causing most of the losses. Defoliation that occurs immediately after sulking may lead to significant yield damage but as the plant matures it decreases.
The ability to recognize hail damage on maize plants and to know how to assess the possible loss plays a significant role in decision making by the farmers. The early signs of a damage maize crop are seen on the growing part that changes color to a light red or brown color within the first 4-6 days of damage. When the growing point changes its coloration, then one can conclude that the maize plant is likely not to produce optimally and may even die. Maize crops that have bruised but not severed stalks or leaf tend to yield close to normal productions. As such, the farmers should monitor the rotten part of the stalks of the severely defoliated crops that have normal leaves since photosynthesis takes place in the leaves rather than the stalks. This will reduce the strength of the stalk encouraging the growth of the stalk rot. Field with such maize crops should be harvested early to evade problems of standing ability of the crops. Maize crop farmers whose plants are completely defoliated and have soils rich in nitrogen levels should test the levels of nitrogen and probably ensile the yields before they are consumed. Leaf loss that occurs at late stages allows light to infiltrate the soil and as such flourishing the late season weed development.
The forms of management options after hail events differ based on the farm or field. Based on the farm, the decision solely lies on the accessibility of other maize handling systems such as equipment for handling maize yields with high moisture level and many more. Based on the farm, the issues to consider include the effects of the hail event on the rate of maturation, quality and the yield of the maize crops. Maize harvested after a hailstorm should be stored safely by drying them to 15.5% moisture level or treating the yield with high moisture with acetic acid. Crops that are affected by hail events tend to physiologically mature early but on the other hand, will take longer to dry as compared to maize yield that are not affected by hail events. Hail events reduce the yield and test weight of the maize harvests. Hailed maize harvest should be stored separately from the normally grown yields as this will enable the farmer to have the opportunity of mixing poor and good maize yields to obtain a satisfactory ration.
Bradley, C.A. and Ames, K.A., 2010. Effect of foliar fungicides on corn with simulated hail damage. Plant Disease, 94(1), pp.83-86
Lauer, J.G., Roth, G.W. and Bertram, M.G., 2004. Impact of defoliation on corn forage yield. Agronomy journal, 96(5), pp.1459-1463
Vorst, J.J., 1991. Assessing hail damage to corn. Iowa State University Extension
Rosenzweig, C., Tubiello, F.N., Goldberg, R., Mills, E. and Bloomfield, J., 2002. Increased crop damage in the US from excess precipitation under climate change. Global Environmental Change, 12(3), pp.197-202
Shapiro, C.A., Peterson, T.A. and Flowerday, A.D., 1986. Yield loss due to simulated hail damage on corn: A comparison of actual and predicted values. Agronomy Journal, 78(4), pp.585-589
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