Capital Press File
Farmers in parts of southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon were scouting their onion fields this morning looking for damage from a strong thunderstorm that swept through the region last night packing high winds and hail.
“We got a little bit of rain and thunder, but no hail at all,” said Dell Winegar, a Fruitland-based grower and president of the Idaho Onion Growers Association. “We have no damage this morning.”
Winegar had not received calls from other onion growers as of mid-morning May 7, but said he planned to call growers in various locations around mid-day to see how their crop fared.
Hail can wound onion plants and leave them susceptible to disease if not treated correctly and promptly, ultimately reducing yields.
Stuart Reitz, an Oregon State University Extension agent based in Ontario, said in a May 6 post on the Pacific Northwest Pest Alert Network that the National Weather Service reported the storm went from Nyssa, Ore., to the Fruitland and Payette areas in Idaho.
OSU’s Reitz, in the alert, said If onions sustained damage, plants will benefit from a protective bactericide/fungicide application. Hail can create wounds that leave the plants extremely vulnerable to disease, he said.
“As soon as you can get on the field, apply a copper-containing protectant spray,” he said in the alert. “Copper protects against bacterial and fungal diseases, so it is a better option than fungicides that do not contain copper. This will help prevent infections while those wounds heal. The sooner after any damage occurs, the better.”
In an interview, Reitz said a couple of growers on May 6 reported they were getting some hail. The National Weather Service alert at the time called for half-inch-sized hail.
“That would pack a wallop,” he said. And the windblown dirt and debris can nick and cut leaves, creating “an entry point for pathogens, just like if you cut your finger.”
Onion planting this year was in line with typical schedules and overall the crop looks good so far, Reitz said. Irrigation water is ample. Early on in a few fields, wind picked up drip-irrigation tubing, which was replaced, he said.
Last year’s late start to planting, following the harsh winter and subsequent wet conditions, factored into onion production that was 20 to 25 percent below normal, he said.