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Monday, April 23, 2012

Snow! Crop Protection Strategies!

Unseasonable Weather Threatens Farms

Environment Canada calling for snow over the next two days has area gardeners and farmers keeping a close eye on crops. While smaller farms are shuffling plants into shelter; larger operations and tree fruit growers, need to use other strategies to protect their crops. OMAFRA offers resources to help farmers and gardeners choose crop protection methods that will give the best return on investment.

Frost Crop Protection Strategies

Freeze Protection Methods For Crops includes a variety of methods from passive to active. Andrew Bootsma - Agrometeorological Resources Specialist/Agriculture Canada; and D. Murray Brown - Department of Land Resources Science/University of Guelph compiled a comprehensive list of strategies that farmers can employ in protecting their crops. Passive strategies such as site selection and crop management are employed in advance of problems. Whereas active strategies are what farmers and gardeners are scrambling with at this moment- when frost is imminent.
Active strategies can be quite costly. Therefore, Bootsma and Brown advise taking a number of factors into consideration when choosing an active strategy.
In order to determine if it is economical to invest in the equipment, materials and labor for active freeze protection many factors must be considered. These include the degree of risk, the likely duration and severity of frosts, value of the crop, and effectiveness of the method to be used.
Some of the active methods discussed in their report include:
• Covering
• Fog or Smoke
• Sprinkling
• Heating
• Wind Machines

New Tree Fruit Crop Protection Tables

Tables given in the March OMAFRA Hort Matters newsletter may help farmers in deciding fruit protection strategies.

'Where buds and bloom are present, watch the weather conditions and forecast for frost.' Kathryn Carter, Tender Fruit & Grape Specialist cautions, adding 'There is considerable variability in susceptibility to freezing between orchards, cultivars, crops and stages of development.'

The table on page 4 of the March 2012 Hort Matters newsletter outlines various stages of tree and small fruit bud hardiness temperatures. The table shows average temperatures required to kill 10 percent and 90 percent of buds, and could be a real boon to local farmers. Elsewhere on the OMAFRA website are tables and protection tips pertaining to other food crops such as tomatoes,andstrawberries.

Protecting Crops With Wind

Many tender fruit growers are turning to wind machines to help provide frost protection at critical temperature points.
'Be sure you understand the principles of using wind machines for frost protection before you begin.' cautions OMAFRA.
Essential information about using wind machines for crop protection includes:
• when to start wind machines,
• when not to operate wind machines (high winds),
• ways of reducing noise issues
For detailed information on the use of wind machines refer to OMAFRA Factsheet 10-045 Wind Machines for Minimizing Cold Injury to Horticultural Crops

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