El año 2007 se ha convertido en un año que será recordado por las heladas en casi todas las áreas productoras de berries del mundo. Como venimos informando en LATINBERRIES además de las heladas sufridas por productores norteamericanos durante el mes de abril, también en Australia y Nueva Zelanda las heladas este año producirán importantes bajas en la producción. Aquí la nota
Winter has stamped its authority on the North Coast of NSW and the region's farmers are counting the cost of some of the coldest overnight temperatures they can remember.
"I woke up to a very cold environment. I went outside and down into the gully near our house and it was minus six-and-a-half." Ridley Bell farms blueberries at Lindendale, near Lismore and is estimating he's lost as much as 30 per cent of his early fruiting varieties in just one night. "We've had minus five before. We've never had minus six-and-a-half in my time here. Minus three we start to get significant damage to our fruit."
On Ridley Bell's farm there was a huge temperature range. At his property's highest point it was zero degrees. But in the gullies the gauge dropped to that new record for the Bell family. Mr Bell says any fruit on the tree's couldn't survive.
"It's like taking blueberries out of a freezer at home. They become like blueberry jam, soft and pulpy. Younger fruit on the bush that has freeze damage get corky. So it will dis-colour and just be corky on the inside."
Another 25 kilometres to the east, a reading of minus nine degrees was recorded by the manager of an orchard near Bangalow. Rick Dalli from Heavenly Valley Farms, says he was greeted by a white and frost bitten landscape when he arrived at work. "Everything was all frozen, frozen trees, the net was frozen over the top."
Rick Dalli is predicting losses as high as 40 per cent and says "all the flowers and all the fruit that were out now are pretty much all gone in those low lying paddocks." The industry uses sprinkler systems overnight to try and keep the orchard temperature at a level that won't affect the fruit. Mr Dalli says his neighbour used the technique, but he says it simply didn't work in the extreme conditions.
"He had stalactites hanging off the trees where water had landed. In theory we're putting on water that's five, six degrees from the local creek, so it should be warmer than the actual air temperature is. But it was just too cold."
Mr Dalli says it's now a waiting game to see how the trees recover. "There's a lot of black fruit there already." But he says there's some hope that later flowering varieties might survive.
"The buds are still tight and small and hopefully there may not be as much damage. But it's still cold now, how much longer is it going to stay cold like this.
Blueberry producer Ridley Bell is relying on breeding trials and new varieties to manage the impact of frost. He says the industry can use large fans to circulate air in frost prone areas. But he says there's little support from near-by residential neighbours to noisy fans operating throughout the night.
The region's sugar industry is also assessing the damage of Thursday morning's frost. Rick Beattie, from the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative was heartened by the crop's resilience after an earlier frost on Monday morning. But he says inspectors are out in the paddock going through the assessment process again.