How does hail adversely impact peach trees?

Answer: Peach trees and hailstorms do not go well together.  Hailstorms can vary in intensity, duration and when they occur during the growing season.   Hailstones can vary in size and structure.  Some commercial growers have hail cannons in their orchard for use when a hailstorm is approaching.  Scientific and anecdotal evidence presents differing viewpoints on whether the use of hail cannons provides economic benefit.  In general, when hailstones fall on an orchard, considerable damage usually results.  This damage can include all of the following: tattered leaves, broken or damages shoots, wounds on scaffold branches, fruit damage and even fruit being knocked to the ground.  Depending on the extent of damage, a grower may decide to thin off damaged fruit and manage the rest or he may decide to simply abandon the block altogether and hope for better luck next year.  Generally speaking, the latter would be a poor management decision.  Open wounds on the growing shoots, branches and scaffolds present entry points for bacterial and fungal pathogens and also insects (i.e., lesser peach tree borer).  The grower should maintain a minimal pest management program that will protect trees during the wound healing process and not predispose trees to further damage, otherwise long-term health, productivity and longevity of the orchard may be severely compromised.

Hail clouds
Hailstorms can devastate buildings, cropland, and even cars.  Clouds associated with hailstorms may have a distinct greenish color (source: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
large hail stone

Most hailstones are not as large as this one but they can cause considerable damage to trees – including young shoots, leaves, branches and fruit (source: U.S. National Weather Service).

hail cannon

major hail
Some fruit growers around the world use hail cannons to send shock waves up into the sky as hailstorms approach.  They believe that this disrupts the formation of hailstones or potentially limits their impact. (Source: Young peach tree after multiple hailstone strikes.  Note impact wounds with missing bark, broken branches, and tattered leaves.
hail damage hail damage on peaches
Close-up of bark and shoot damage to branches on young peach tree following hailstorm. Small fruit showing varying degrees of damage from hailstorm.  Note small nicks to fruit surface and large gouges.  Each fruit has multiple hail strikes.

hail damaged peaches
Unmarketable fruit at harvest time that was previously damaged by hail.

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