Even if you've witnessed countless hailstorms, there's something unusual about the sight of ice pelting down from the sky during Australia's scorching summer.
For farmers, hail is a constant worry during warm months when thunderstorms are common, yet many fail to factor hail into their farm risk management plan.
Hailstorms may strike at unpredictable times, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare. We explore how.
Why do hailstorms occur?
You may be wondering, 'what exactly is hail?'
Hailstones are ice crystals that form when thunderstorm updraughts carry water well above the freezing level in a cloud. Stones will rise and fall again, adding a new layer of frozen water each time, before eventually growing so heavy they fall from the cloud.
Hailstones fall so quickly they don't have time to melt before hitting the ground. When you consider this velocity, it's no surprise how much damage hailstones of all sizes can cause.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) December 19, 2017
If you see hail in the forecast …
Hail can wreak havoc on your crops. A single storm can:
- Uproot plants,
- Expose roots,
- Defoliate crops,
- Reduce yields,
- Cause spots and discolouration.
Further, any time a plant's surface, roots or leaves is damaged, it becomes much more susceptible to disease later on.
That's why it's essential to make every effort to cover your crops using row covers, greenhouse tunnels and hoops if you see hail in the forecast. You can even create makeshift canopies with tarps and screens, although this is impractical for larger paddocks.
During the storm, stay inside and don't venture outdoors to try to remedy and damage. Although tempting, this is likely to result in you getting hurt.
The importance of taking a proactive approach to hail
When it comes to extreme weather, hail is notoriously unpredictable. Storms are rarely forecast and farmers may only sense hail is coming minutes before it strikes.
To this end, the best risk management plan for hail is a proactive one with these three essential components:
1. Healthy plants
Strong plants are more able to stand up to the impact of hail, which is just one reason to keep plants in safe, unexposed areas until they're ready to withstand the elements.
If plants are damaged, focus on recovery. Remove broken plant material immediately and apply fungicides if necessary.
2. Secure buildings and equipment
Of course, crops aren't your only asset.
Before a hailstorm, you should also park equipment under cover and secure loose objects such as tools or outdoor furniture.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) February 15, 2018
3. The right insurance
If a hailstorm does strike, it's essential to have comprehensive crop insurance to help recoup your losses. If damage is severe, you may lose your entire crop or at least have to change your harvest date significantly.
At Primacy Underwriting Management, we recognise the unique risks facing farmers, which is why we offer key protection against common perils like hail.
To find out more about which of our specialised solutions is right for your farm, reach out to the team at Primacy today.