Preparing for fruit & veg crop recovery after wet weather and floods

With further wet conditions forecast for the coming season, it is important for fruit and vegetable crop growers to be prepared for the likelihood of further flooding.

If your fruit and vegetable crops and cropping land become affected by floods, it is essential that you take steps as soon as possible after the event to manage crop recovery and minimise the extent of the damage.

Off-farm runoff water may be contaminated, creating a problem particularly acute for leafy vegetable crops. Shortly after a flood, growers should carry out contamination testing to ensure the safety of their crops.

Crops stressed by waterlogging may wilt, leaves may turn yellow due to iron chlorosis or nitrogen deficiency, tree branches may dieback and, in some cases, crops will die.

Vegetables and young or newly planted trees are most at risk as they lack an extensive root system. Flood damaged crops may have extensive root death, so irrigation timing is vital to recovery and to avoid ongoing plant stress. Apply small amounts often until the root system has recovered.

If possible, take immediate steps to improve the drainage of these areas so that the water can get away. This may be as simple as digging drains in the early stages.

In the longer term, crop growers should look for ways to improve the drainage of affected areas. Options might include:

  • re-shaping the layout of the field
  • improving surface drainage
  • installing subsurface drainage.

If the drainage can't be improved, consider using the area for some other purpose, such as a silt trap.

Wet weather can also increase the likelihood of agricultural diseases and it is important to identify and target diseases in horticultural crops affected by floods and wet weather. There are a range of agronomists who can advise growers and laboratory testing services that can help test horticultural crops for diseases and pests.

In some circumstances flood waters may contain chemical and biological contaminants, however they will reduce over time and with follow-up rainfall and sunny weather.

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