Help with hurricane mitigation

Industry experts are writing guidelines to help producers plan for and recover from hurricanes.

• By Amanda Huber •

hurricane equipment damageHurricanes and tropical storms produce a multitude of impacts ranging from damaging winds, inland flooding, coastal surges and sometimes an isolated tornado. Coming across the Atlantic or up from the Caribbean, the first place hurricanes and tropical storms often hit are good areas for growing peanuts as well.

The Virginia-Carolina states and the Southeast, primarily Florida and Alabama, are direct targets. If the storm keeps going, as Hurricane Michael did, then Georgia can also be greatly affected.

More Major Hurricanes Predicted

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast Regional Climate Hub, there has been a slight increase in the frequency of tropical storms in the Atlantic in the past few decades.The number of major hurricanes, from category 3 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, has also increased over that time.

USDA’s Climate Hubs are a collaboration across the department’s agencies. The Southeast Climate Hub connects public, academic and private sector organizations with researchers and outreach specialists to deliver technical support and provide tools that help producers cope with challenges associated with drought, heat stress, excessive moisture and changes in pest pressures.

Climate models from the USDA’s Southeast Climate Hub project that the frequency of major hurricanes will likely increase, while the number of tropical storms will decrease. Because of this, researchers and Extension specialists are working on a guide to help peanut producers prepare for and recover from hurricanes.

Helping write the guidelines are Barry Tillman, University of Florida peanut breeder; Dan Anco, Clemson University Extension peanut specialist; and David Jordan, North Carolina State University Extension peanut specialist.

Assistance In Overwhelming Times

Although the final version is not complete, the guide aims to help producers focus on long- and short-term planning and preparation to mitigate the impacts of hurricanes on peanut production.

It will also cover the potential impacts of wind and water and offer steps to rebuilding and recovery after passage of hurricanes.
As an example, the guide offers a number of considerations when a hurricane is forecast to impact your area in 1 to 7 days.

One suggestion is to document the status of your peanut crop – field by field. If flooding is likely to be an issue in certain fields, pull some plants to document the pre-storm status – as far as maturity and general health – and take pictures. This could aid in determining crop losses.

Another suggestion is that is it probably better to delay digging until after the storm if flooding is likely in certain fields. That is because peanut plants can float and be pushed by the wind across flooded fields. Other topics prior to the storm cover fungicide applications and equipment placement.

Overall, the guide will serve as a checklist for producers so nothing gets missed, even in the nearly overwhelming aftermath a hurricane can bring. 

USDA Southeast Climate Hub’s Trends And Projections:

Over the past few decades, there has been a decreasing trend in rainfall during the summer months.

Most climate models simulate that the decrease in summer rainfall may continue, with the largest decreases (more than 10%) projected to occur in southern Florida and the western states of the region.

Above-average rainfall and extreme rainfall events have occurred more frequently across the Southeast over the past 20 years.

Most climate models simulate that extreme rainfall events of more than 1 inch will continue to increase.

Temperatures have steadily increased across the Southeast since the 1970s, especially during the summer and along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

There has been an increase in the number of days where maximum temperature exceeds 95 degrees F and minimum temperature exceeds 75 F.

Days with maximum temperatures exceeding 95 F are predicted to increase, with more than 35 additional days occurring in central Florida and 20-30 additional days across the rest of the region.