After a storm goes through an area of the state and causes damage to row crops, it is essential that crop damage assessment be completed in a series of steps.

Initially, the damage may not appear to be severe.

For example in cotton, it can take a few days before squares and small bolls begin to shed from damaged cotton plants. This type of damage is a result of the bruising that occurs when leaves, stems and bolls are whipped around by the wind.

If the soil is wet prior to the arrival of the storm, root systems can also be damaged, causing a more severe response.

The fruit and leaf shedding is a result of the hormones “ethylene”, generally produced as fruit ripens, and abscissic acid that allows the leaves and other structure to abscise. In this case, normal hormone balance is altered from the bruising that has occurred to the plant and root zone flooding.

It is important to notify your crop insurance adjuster as soon as you know you have a claim. It is also advisable to make an appointment to visit with them quickly because their schedules are likely to be very full visiting other farms.

Prior to making your final decision about what to do, survey the overall damage and whether or not it appears that everything has been considered.

Taking assessments immediately following the storm can provide a baseline for where the crop was when the storm hit. However, another assessment may be needed to avoid underestimating the overall, long-term damage.

See “A Method for Evaluating Storm-Damaged Cotton for Extension County Agents and Specialists” for more details on work by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at http://www.joe.org/joe/2002april/rb6.php