Horticultural Update: Hurricane Ian and Apple Preharvest Drop

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Image of a Fuji apple at commercial maturity.

Multiple mid-to-late season apple cultivars, such as ‘Fuji’ are at risk of high wind-induced preharvest drop with Hurricane Ian.

As of 5:30 this morning, Hurricane Ian made landfall in far western Cuba. At present, this storm has wind speeds of ~125 mph and poses a serious threat to many communities in western Florida.

It is anticipated that most production areas of the southeastern apple industry will see impacts from this storm. While much is uncertain, high winds and significant rainfall are possible. Based on the forecast, the earliest reasonable arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds ranges from Thursday at 8 p.m. (Upstate SC and North GA) to Friday at 8 a.m. (most of western NC). Pending upon location in the tristate apple production area (NC, SC, and GA), 2 to 6 inches of rain is predicted (see figures below).

Image of NOAA Hurricane Center's prediction of the arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds.

NOAA National Hurricane Center’s prediction of the arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds as of Tuesday (9/27/22).

Image of NOAA National Hurricane Center's prediction rainfall from Hurricane Ian as of Tuesday (9/27/22).

NOAA National Hurricane Center’s prediction rainfall from Hurricane Ian as of Tuesday (9/27/22).

While harvesting commercially mature fruit in advance of a storm such as this is desirable, this is certainly not practical in all cases (especially for growers with large acreage and pick-your-own operations). If there are concerns about preharvest drop of maturing cultivars (due to high winds), NAA is your best bet on short notice. NAA (Fruitone L; Pomaxa; Refine, etc.) is fast-acting and can reduce preharvest drop within two to three days after application. A rate of 10 ppm NAA (4 oz. of formulated product per 100 gallons of water) is effective for this purpose. If utilized, this material should be applied in the next day or two to make sure that there is enough time for the product to help minimize losses.

While apples that sustain 40+ mph winds will likely be a bit worse for wear, a crop that is on the ground is useless. Best wishes and stay safe!