Macadamia consultant Charlie Starrett inspects macadamia trees for the flowering pest lace bug.
Macadamia consultant Charlie Starrett inspects macadamia trees for the flowering pest lace bug.

It all depends on the weather

FARMERS across the Northern Rivers are holding their breath and waiting to see what the weather does over the next month.

July brought the warmest overnight temperatures to Lismore in a decade.

The overnight average reached 7.9 degrees – 2.5degrees higher than usual.

On top of that, last Friday was the warmest day recorded in July in the past six years. The temperature reached 26.8 degrees Celsius in Lismore.

Macadamia grower and consultant Charlie Starrett, of Rosebank, said warm weather had brought increased lace bug activity to macadamia plantations since the beginning of July.

Lace bug is a pest that feeds on flowers and can devastate macadamia plantings.

“Once it gets in the flowers there will be no nut set,” Mr Starrett said.

“They can spread rapidly.”

Lace bug populations had been increasing in macadamia plantations over the past five years and not enough was known about the bug to explain why.

“There needs to be more research,” he said.

Another recent weather-related event that had affected the macadamia industry was torrential rainfall on June 3. It not only washed away nuts lying on the ground ready for harvest, but also topsoil.

“It will have an impact on this year's total tonnage,” Mr Starrett said.

Some processors had responded to the shortage by increasing their returns to growers by 10 cents per kilo in order to fill their orders for nuts.

Industry and Investment NSW extension horticulturist Jeremy Bright said the warm weather could lead to an extended growing season, but farmers would need to manage the pest.

The most effective way to do that is with insecticide.

Meanwhile, local mango growers could place an each-way bet on what the season ahead may bring.

Warm weather has led to early flowering, which growers treat by simply removing the blooms. Growers are now hoping the warm conditions will last.

A warm spring, like last year's, usually results in a bumper crop of mangoes.

However, a cold snap in the next four weeks could be devastating.

“If it stays warm it will promote flowering, but you don't want it to drop below zero,” Mr Bright said.

Avocado growers will bealso watching the weatherforecast closely, fearing the warm weather could lead to early flowering, resulting in pre-mature fruit drop.

The warm weather is also causing increased snake activity across the region.

WIRES Northern Rivers has reported an increase in the number of calls about snakes, according to snake handler Kimbah Pengelly.

“Snakes get out and takeadvantage of the hot days,” Ms Pengelly said.

“They don't actually hibernate in the Southern Hemisphere, it's not cold enough.”



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