Anti-freeze grinders used for the first time on the Hughenden wine farm

It’s not uncommon to see helicopters herding cattle in North West Queensland, but they are now being used to prevent frost damage.

Marciano Table Grapes said the helicopters acted as an expensive fan to blow warmer air over the crop in Flinders County.

Farm manager Maritz du Plessis said after nearly two years of developing the farm of green, red and black table grapes, growers couldn’t risk their vines.

“If we have frost now, we will basically lose our season,” he said.

“It’s a real setback if the frost were to strike now.

“We can still get vegetative growth afterwards, but we will miss our market window and the chance to have secondary clusters.

Frost was expected over a large area this week.(Rural ABC: Arlie Felton-Taylor)

Frost fans are used in other farming areas of Australia, but Mr du Plessis said helicopters were the best option for the farm.

“It’s more about getting access to helicopters and people who have a license to fly at night,” he said.

“That was the most important thing because we don’t know when a temperature inversion is going to happen.”

Mr du Plessis said the weather was warming up but he would keep the helicopters on standby for the next two days.

A man in a blue shirt with a cap and sunglasses on his head stands in a green crop.
Richard Fairley grows a variety of herbs near Biloela and says this season has been excellent despite the freezing weather.(ABC Capricorn: Erin Semmler)

Herbs thrive in freezing conditions

Cold weather isn’t a problem for everyone – Biloela farmer Richard Fairly says his large-area herb-growing business has been at its best for five years.

“They’re growing really, really well this season and I couldn’t be happier so the cold weather won’t bother us,” he said.

Mr Fairly said the farm’s refrigeration systems were warmer than the minus two degree conditions in the packing shed.

Mr Fairley said this week’s parsley and coriander crops were excellent despite the unseasonable rains.

“It’s a very good season for the Valley, but long overdue,” he said.

A muddy path in a chickpea plantation.
Chickpeas can be prone to frost damage, especially after flowering and pod formation.(Rural ABC: Eric Barker)

Chickpeas are shivering

Clermont farmer Brendan Swaffer said severe frost had only a minor effect on his cotton crop.

Her chickpeas were also spared as they had not yet flowered.

“As soon as you get a gel on anything that has flowered, it aborts the flower,” he said.

“Although losing the flower isn’t that bad, it’s when they lose their pods and they’re frosty – well, it has to start again.”

Mr Swaffer said his chickpeas would survive a few more frosts this season without downgrading the pulse crop.

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