Winds batter fruit harvest

00:14, Jan 14 2013

Gales have ruined the end of the berryfruit harvest and caused annoying damage to other Nelson horticultural crops.

Julian Raine, chairman of Nelson-based Berryfruit Export NZ, which handles about half the national boysenberry crop, said up to 200 tonnes of boysenberries had been blown off the vine over the last couple of weeks, putting a dampener on what had been an exceptional season.

"We basically lost all the end fruit of the harvest, which is not good given we had sales for all of it," he said. "Every grower I've spoken to lost fruit."

Mr Raine said surplus fruit had already been sold in anticipation of a good harvest so some customers would go short.

It was "very frustrating" as it was the third year in a row that the crop has been hit by bad weather and prices had picked up considerably because fruit was in short supply, he said.

Raspberry growers have also lost large parts of their crop, with one bordering the Waimea Plains losing more than a quarter of his fruit in one night last week.


Pear growers are counting the cost too. Dennis Cassidy said his Redwoods Rd orchard had been buffeted by the strong winds from both the south and the north despite a high shelter belt giving good protection.

Large branches had been split off some trees and fruit had suffered "quite a lot" of damage where they had rubbed against each other.

"It's affects their presentation and quality and means more will end up in the juice factory."

Half his plum crop was also on the ground, he said.

The gales have been strong enough to knock over rows of young apple trees and blow fruit - due to be harvested in six weeks - to the ground on the Waimea Plains.

Nick Patterson, a partner in Wai-west Horticulture, one of the region's larger growers, said the level of damage was becoming a concern as it came on top of hail strikes in December which had affected up to 25 per cent of some blocks.

"It's taken the shine off what was potentially an excellent crop of apples."

The company's kiwifruit vines had also received a battering, with young grafted canes of new gold varieties worst hit and some fruit suffering wind rub, he said.

Growers further west have also been affected.

Motueka Fruitgrowers Association chairman Simon Easton said young apple trees had been uprooted or had their tops blown off and even mature trees had lost branches in more exposed orchard areas.

On his family's Mariri orchard they had had to drive in more posts and fix more wires to secure a block of grafted trees.

"It's been pretty extreme and it's gone on for days and all day long."

A kiwifruit grower at Riwaka had lost a shelter net after the wind snapped posts and pushed it over, he said.

Some apples were starting to suffer wind rub, although the overall quality remained high, with jazz and envy looking particularly good.

The winds had sucked a lot of moisture out of the ground, forcing growers to irrigate more intensely, he said.

"The 25mm we got over the Christmas break was gone within a few days." If they didn't get 50mm over the next few weeks, it would start to impact on fruit size, Mr Easton said.

"If we get a couple of inches in the next week or two it will be a million-dollar rain."

The gales have had hop growers on tenterhooks, as the vines are at a critical growing stage and are susceptible to wind damage.

But NZ Hops chief executive Doug Donelan said a survey of growers showed only minor damage to outside rows.

The Nelson Mail