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Heat stress: It doesn’t just affect your crops

Staying safe in the heat

Heat stress: It doesn’t just affect your crops

As a farmer, you're naturally focused on taking care of everything else during these hot, dry summer months. You want to take care of your crops the best you can. After all, your livelihood depends on it. But all too often, farmers put themselves on the back burner and in the end, the impact of the heat can be harder on you than on your crops.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are common impacts of prolonged exposure to intense heat, especially when paired with physical labor (AKA everything in farming). These conditions can be life-threatening, but they’re also preventable. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, especially out in the field under direct sunlight, and know what warning signs to look out for.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

  • Headache

  • Dizziness/confusion

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite/nausea

  • Excessive sweating

  • Pale, clammy skin

  • Cramps in arms, legs or stomach

  • Rapid breathing/pulse

  • High temperature

  • Excessive thirst

Heat stroke is an elevated level of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is raised to heat stroke when internal body temperature rises to 103℉ or higher. If you’re experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, you can stop the progression by moving to the nearest cool environment. Ideally, go inside an air-conditioned room to rest and rehydrate. If that’s not an option, find the nearest shady area and get out of the direct sun.

Some additional steps that can help mitigate heat exhaustion include drinking plenty of fluids, removing tight-fitting or unnecessary clothing, taking a cool shower or using ice packs to help regulate your body. If you’re still not feeling well after 15 minutes of applying these strategies, it’s time for emergency medical attention. This signals that your condition likely has progressed to heat stroke and the risks to your health multiply.

Risk Factors

It doesn’t have to be 110℉ without a hint of a breeze or a cloud in sight for you to experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke. A heat index of just 90℉ dramatically increases the risk of heat-related illness. Relative humidity at or above 60% also raises the risk, as increased humidity makes it harder for your body to cool itself by sweating.

It’s also important to note that certain age groups are at a greater risk of experiencing heat exhaustion and heat stroke. No one is immune, but people with pre-existing health conditions or who are taking certain medications, along with infants and children under age 4 and adults over age 65, are more susceptible to heat stress.

Preventing Heat Stress

As we mentioned, conditions caused by heat exposure are preventable. There’s a full list of steps you can take to lower your chances of experiencing heat exhaustion and heat stroke (and make working outside in the heat much more comfortable overall). If possible, it’s best to implement all of these strategies, but in general, just remember: the more, the better.

  • Dress the part. Make sure your clothing is lightweight, loose-fitting, light colored and topped off with a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Protect your skin. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and re-apply every two hours.

  • Drink extra fluids. Water, juice and electrolyte-enhanced drinks are the best overall types to protect your body against heat stress.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These substances can cause you to lose more fluids, erasing the work you put in to hydrate your body.

  • Change your schedule. Try to plan your outdoor work to take place in the early and late parts of the day, and spend as much time as possible inside during the hottest part of the day.

  • Take it slow. Your body can acclimate to hot conditions over time, but the key phrase is over time. If you’re not used to working outdoors in the extreme heat, make sure to ease into it.

Look out for yourself and those around you. We know farmers, and we know they can be stubborn and feel like they’re invincible (yes, we’re looking at you 😉), and you may need to hold family and friends accountable for protecting themselves against heat-related illness, as they hold you accountable at the same time.

Protecting Your Crops

You are the focus here, but we know you’re still worried about your crops. We are, too. That’s why we have multiple products that are designed to support the biology of your plants and naturally protect them from the damaging effects of extreme heat.

Rather than being rendered inactive by changes in weather conditions, our biologicals and other nutritionals react with the weather to provide the nutrients your plants need in the moment they need it. Some of the best products to help empower your crops to beat the summer heat include:

  • PiSKi Dust Plus helps reduce the effects of stress on crops through enhanced cellular structure, and increases the uptake of important nutrients.

  • BW-Respite* mitigates stress in crops by blocking ethylene, and should be applied before a major stress event.

  • BW-NTrust is a great product for all crops requiring nitrogen and provides enhanced crop vigor, increased root mass, better nutrient uptake and reduced environmental stress.

  • BW-SeaAmino* helps crops bounce back after any stress events, providing quick recovery that limits the impact of stress.

*These products can be applied at any time throughout the growing season. Use BW-Respite to proactively protect against upcoming stress, and BW-SeaAmino after unexpected stress events.

But remember—your crops aren’t the only things that are affected by heat stress. Take care of yourself and your fields as we finish out the hot, summer months. Stay cool, and stay safe.