While there are many environmental factors that can damage apple trees as well as the apple fruit, hail damage is one that can be very frustrating. Below are answers to questions that come up quite frequently regarding hail damage on apples.
What can I do about hail damage to my apple tree?
Apple trees are susceptible to hail damage anytime throughout the year, and well-established, mature trees will have little impact from a minor hail event besides damage to the fruit and leaves. However, on newly established trees even a minor hail event can destroy the newly formed bark severely enough that the tree will not recover. For old or new trees, using a fungicide shortly after the hail event can help alleviate any wound infections by bacteria or fungal pathogens. If the damage is severe enough late in the season, not harvesting the apples for eating and making the application can lead to better tree health long-term.
Picture credit: Jose Gonzales-Acuna
What does hail damage look like?
Depending on when that hail event occurred, apple fruit can be injured in a variety of ways. Sometimes the damage appears as small dents which will lead to some bruising of the apple fruit and some discoloration. Other injuries can appear as gashes in the fruit as the hail falls, cratering that will eventually lead to broken skin, or the fruit will be completely knocked off the tree. On apple branches, sometimes the pattern that looks slightly like pox marks will appear and will last the lifetime of the branch.
Are my apple still safe to eat after a hailstorm?
Apples that have been subjected to hail damage can still be consumed either fresh or processed if the damage is not severe. Depending on when the hail event occurred will give a better idea of how edible the fruit is. If the storm was earlier in the season the apples may be too damaged by harvest to eat fresh or even process. Look for broken skin, black marks, any type of mold that grows in the wound, or other rotting discoloration. It is generally unsafe to eat rotting apples. If the hail event occurred very close to harvest, processing the apples for sauce, jams and jellies or cider as quickly as possible before making any pesticide applications is also ideal.