Cath Ford at her macadamia farm.
Cath Ford at her macadamia farm.

Fickle weather affects industries

THE EFFECTS of last year’s long dry spring are still being felt in agricultural industries throughout the Northern Rivers.

For some industries – stone fruit and mangoes – below average rainfall during spring had positive consequences, while in the macadamia industry it led to widespread reduced nut set.

During August last year less than 2mm of rain fell in most locations across the region, the average is about 76mm.

“Dry conditions and low humidity kept diseases low,” industry leader for Industry and Investment NSW Mark Hickey said.

The stone fruit industry was one of the big winners with the dry weather keeping away brown rot and preventing the splitting of fruit.

“They really deserved a good year after hailstorms in October 2007 and 2008 virtually wiped them out,” Mr Hickey said.

So, too, the lack of rain led to a great year for the region’s mango growers.

“Mangoes love dry warm weather,” Mr Hickey said.

That is precisely what they got and the bounty wasn’t limited to commercial mango growers.

Over Christmas many backyard mango trees burst into life with so much fruit its disposal became a major headache for councils across the region.

There was so much rotting fruit on the ground, there were even reports of livestock getting drunk on fermented mangos.

Last year the macadamia industry held high hopes for a good year.

Earlier in the season, good flowering had growers and processors optimistic about the possibility of a bumper yield.

However, those hopes were dashed after unseasonable August temperatures, as high as 35.5 degrees, affected pollination, which in turn led to low nut set on some varieties of macadamias. The mean temperature for Lismore in August is normally 21.5 degrees.

The first round of harvesting is currently underway. Early indications are predicting a yield of between 37,000 and 40,000 tonnes.

Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett said the predominant variety of nut grown on the Northern Rivers had experienced ‘variable nut set’.

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