Hurricane Irene causes damage to fruit, other farm crops in Pennsylvania

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CAMP HILL, Pa. — Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says early reports indicate that high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Irene have caused sporadic damage to farms and orchards in several areas of Pennsylvania. The most common problem cited by farmers field corn leaning or flattened by strong winds, while apples and other fruits fell to the ground during the storm.

“The largest and most mature fruit fell off the trees. We estimate that about 20 percent of our fruit is on the ground, which is a significant loss,” said Brad Hollabaugh of Hollabaugh Brothers Fruit Farm and Market in Biglerville, Adams County.

Some saved. Hollabaugh says losses could have been much worse, but his team of workers managed to harvest most of the farms Gala and Honeycrisp apple varieties in the three days prior to the storm.

Unfortunately, high winds caused losses to a variety of Asian Pears, early Fuji apples (when the trees were pushed over) and more than 50 percent losses of golden delicious apples using a new trellis system.

“There is nothing more disheartening than looking at apples on the ground, after you’ve put your heart and soul into growing and nurturing the fruit throughout the season,” added Hollabaugh.

Meanwhile, Jim Schupp, the director of Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center, confirmed that winds from Hurricane Irene were especially troubling for growers of Gala and Honeycrisp apples, who had just begun harvesting the crop.

Schupp says heavy rains also caused some apples to crack, while the wind uprooted trees.

“Damages vary widely from farm-to-farm and even from one section of a farm to the other. Some farms were hardly touched, while others have fruit losses of 50 percent,” said Jim Schupp.

Other crops

Corn growers in parts of eastern and central Pennsylvania incurred damage from high winds which caused corn to lean, get tangled or flattened.

“Some of the crop is lost, while the storm damage will make it more difficult to harvest. We’ll need to use special heads on our equipment to harvest the corn. We probably won’t be able to assess total losses from the storm until after we harvest the crop,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer, who is a full-time farmer from Columbia County.

Farm Bureau notes that outreach to farmers, Pennsylvania’s Farm Service Agency, Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture, Lancaster County Extension and other sources all report intermittent crop damage due to strong winds, but no reports of loss of livestock or extensive flood damage.

“Crop damage and losses from Hurricane Irene are varied from county to county and even from farm to farm. It will probably take weeks before we learn the full extent of the damages,” concluded Shaffer.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization with a volunteer membership of more than 53,000 farm and rural families, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.

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