High Wind, Rainfall Affecting Local Fruit, Vegetable Production

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Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

Our recent weather patterns have been doing a number on our local fruit and vegetable growers. Excessive rain and the spell of high winds last week have adversely affected some of our productions.

Joel Johns lives in Etoile and planted, among other vegetables, 126 Parks Whopper tomatoes. He and his wife love to share their harvest with friends and family. They raise the Park’s Whopper variety because he likes the way they grow upright as a bush, plus “they’ll give you a little bigger tomato, and it is good for canning.”

After last week’s winds Johns lost 49 of his 126 tomato plants. They simply were blown over by the winds and, coupled by water-logged soils, have not been able to grow up out of it. In addition to the loss of tomatoes, Johns reported that the high winds blew the blooms off his green beans and that his zucchini were completely uprooted.

I visited Wood’s Blueberry Farm in Burke owned by Craig and Julie Wood earlier this week. Still going strong in full production with weeks of harvest ahead, a minimal volume of blueberries was blown off the bushes into the ground. The highbush and rabbit-eye varieties were keeping up with production even with the saturated soil. Their biggest issue with the weather is that the rain simply keeps pickers out of the fields and unable to harvest.

Down in the south end of the county outside of Diboll, Fred Flournoy reported that his corn crop had about 50 percent of it laid over. Flournoy had planted five rows of G90 sweet corn, 15 rows of field corn, and another five rows of candy corn.

While half his corn crop was adversely affected, Fred notes that it didn’t kill that half, but it would be unlikely to make a decent crop on the part that was hurt. “Those corn tassels won’t be able to do much pollinating if they are laying low to the ground,” Fred noted.

Indeed, corn is a wild pollinated plant, unlike the vast majority of vegetable plants that have a flower bloom. Corn, like other grains, relies upon the wind to be pollinated. Lying low and out of the wind does not bode well for his corn crop this year.

On an interesting note, Fred Flournoy had also planted an acre of sunflowers. “That field,” he said, “was really looking good before it was blown down.”

As we gardeners can take a close look at the damage to the main stem. If bent sharply and crushed, we can expect major damage and the loss of the plants.

Plants that were laid over by wind but without excessive damage to the stem are still expected to yield some portion of a crop. Other than corn and its need for wind pollination, those blooms should still bear fruit.

Water logged soils are the other major factor. Because we have such a diversity of soils in our area, I can’t make a blanket statement to our garden’s health in saturated soils.

The fact is, roots need to breath, and some soils will drain better than others. One contributing factor is how high you’ve made your rows. I’ve seen gardens do well with soil that is nearly level, without elevating the rows where the seeds planted. I’ve also seen a homemade tiller attachment that could hill up a row 18 inches high!

Time will tell. For what it’s worth, my son’s tomato patch is looking very good. Only a portion of a tomato plant or two was damaged in our garden in Clawson.

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