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Horticulture

Heat plays havoc on Stanthorpe apple orchards

Stephen Tomasel (right) with then Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson and a DAF representative last year while facing challenges after the 2015 snow. This year it was issues with the region's heatwave.
Stephen Tomasel (right) with then Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson and a DAF representative last year while facing challenges after the 2015 snow. This year it was issues with the region's heatwave. contributed

RECENT weeks of cooler weather and much-needed rain have brought welcome respite for many farmers around the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.

But for some, the damage was already done.

Pozieres apple farmer Stephen Tomasel predicted about 30% of his crop had dropped from the trees during the record-breaking heatwave last month.

Mr Tomasel said about a quarter of his royal gala apples were affected, which is the first variety they picked each year.

"The impact was quite significant,” Mr Tomasel said.

"It was a culmination of all the hot days put together and that last weekend where it was over 39°C. They tipped it over the edge.”

While some fruit was just sunburnt and would likely recover, he said much of the royal galas dropped from the trees in the heat.

Mr Tomasel said it was the first time in his 39 apple-growing seasons he had seen this level of heat damage.

"I've never experienced a season like it, as far as the heat's concerned,” he said.

He said for the most affected fruit would be a lower quality, which consumers would likely see in the form of lower prices to move the fruit through their stockists, Woolworths and Coles.

He said the warm nights in particular had prevented some of the fruit from properly developing their colour, leading to pale pickings.

However, he hoped later varieties would fare better after autumn had brought with it cooler days and some much-needed rain.

"The conditions (now) are perfect,” Mr Tomasel said.

"I'm happy with the rain but I'm hoping for more.”

He hoped the next varieties, including red delicious, would have a strong, quality harvest after the better conditions.

Many farmers around the region faced scorched crops during the heatwave.

Topics:  apples heatwave orchard stanthorpe


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