It’s not uncommon to see helicopters herding cattle in North West Queensland, but they are now being used to prevent frost damage.
- Winemaker says frost damage would be a major setback for his fledgling operation
- Herb grower says freezing conditions haven’t impacted his produce, despite looking for heat in farm fridges
- Chickpea grower says his produce has held up well through winter, though frost damage remains a concern
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 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.
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.
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.