We are still very much in the hurricane season, even though there hasn’t been any major storms thus far. This week’s Tip Thursday, from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), primarily concerns large-scale farmers, but there are points to consider for those of us who plant crops or rear animals on a micro scale. Please take note and share this information with farmers you may know.
After a hurricane or flood, the farm should be returned to production as soon as possible:
- Remove zinc sheets, lumber, nails, etc., that can cause damage to animals;
- Clean-up debris of damaged plants;
- Salvage valuable trees or plants;
- Dispose of dead animals immediately by composting, burial or burning;
- Clean and repair cages, pens, houses as soon as possible and return animals.
Disease in animals may be increased after a flood:
- Check for signs of pneumonia;
- Check animals for distress/illness and consult a veterinarian where necessary;
- Keep vaccinations up to date;
- Provide clean and uncontaminated water and feed;
- Clear pasture land;
- Where necessary, spray for mosquitoes and other insect pests.
- Inspect chemical stores, clean up any chemical spillage to avoid poisoning and restrict contamination of water sources;
- Effect repairs to storehouses and other structures, if necessary;
- Unclog drains, sinkholes and canals to free up the passage of water;
- Repair drain and canal infrastructure, electrical power lines and (using a competent electrician) pumping stations, if necessary;
- As soon as practicable, address weed control (farms tend to get overrun by weeds following a hurricane);
- Do not refertilise fields; hurricanes are likely to occur during the second half of the year when added fertiliser will tend to result in poor juice quality and low cane price;
- Recently planted nurseries of fall plants not scheduled for harvesting in the next crop may be given a supplementary fertiliser dressing to replace nutrients washed away during the storm;
- Inspect recently planted fields for the possible need for supplying (or even replanting), depending on the level of scouting.
Fruit tree crops
- Make a visual assessment of the damage to estimate the cost of resetting the trees or re-establishing the orchard;
- Be alert and look for fallen or broken high-powered electrical wires which may still be alive and dangerous;
- In cutting plants, make sharp, clean cuts at a 45-degree angle to prevent water settling on the cut surface. Use tools such as pruning saw, rolcut/secateurs or chainsaw.
- Cut back secondary branches towards the main stem at an acceptable inner node or branch collar;
- Prop up trees and cover roots with topsoil; where possible, avoid damage to the base of the trunk;
Mulch, if possible
- To be effective, mulch should be at least three inches thick and have a three-foot radius around the plant;
- Do not pile mulch against trunks, as this may cause attack by fungi and borers.
Partially toppled trees
- As trees continue to develop and recover, additional pruning will be essential for proper management of new growth.
Trees with split or twisted trunks
- Cut below the split or twist at a node or branch collar and at a 45-degree angle;
- Treat remaining trunk and drench roots with systemic fungicide;
- Remove all cut material from the site.
Trees with broken branches
- Cut back broken branches to next inner node, fork or branch collar;
- Paint branches exposed to sunlight for the first time with white lime to prevent sunburn. Dilute white lime with water in a 1:4 ratio. Dissolve material to be sprayed 1:1 with water and strain;
- Dilute after with an equal volume of water.
- Fertilise tree with a complete fertiliser, 2-3 months after the hurricane.
- If possible, place the fertiliser in a 1-2m (3-6 ft) circular area around the trunk of damaged trees, as this is the area where the new fibrous roots will emerge.