Tomatoes hit by cold snap

By Emma Carinci on December 29, 2015

Tomato plants in Rochester, Echuca and Boort had to contend with unseasonably cold conditions twice last month: at the beginning of November with a hail storm and at the end of November with a frosty evening, according to sources.

The December 2015 Tomato Topics report by the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council and Horticulture Innovation Australia highlighted that overnight on Thursday, November 26, a ‘‘frost event’’ occurred, causing damage to some of the crops.

Rochester tomato grower Bruce Weeks said the season in general had been ‘‘pretty ordinary.’’

He said the tomatoes were off to a good start in November, however, the rain and hail storm on Sunday, November 1 damaged a lot of plants.

‘‘In the east of Rochester ... quite a few tomatoes were severely damaged,’’ Mr Weeks said.

‘‘Some crops have been impacted quite severely and needed to be replanted.’’

The more recent frosty temperatures on the evening of November 26 did not affect Mr Weeks’ plants but he confirmed that some crops to the east of Rochester, between Rochester and Echuca, and one crop at Boort sustained some damaged, the extent of which was unknown.

Kagome Australia chief executive officer John Brady said some of the company’s growers in Echuca were affected by that cold night but he did not classify it as a frost event.

‘‘It was close to being a frost but it was more like a sharp reduction in temperature that was down to near freezing conditions,’’ Mr Brady said.

‘‘It only happened for an hour or two.’’

Although the damage was not major compared to the incident in early November, the plants did suffer from blackened leaves and the Kagome growers’ yields would be impacted, Mr Brady said.

Mr Brady was surprised by the cold temperatures so late in the year but conceded this was a growing challenge in agriculture.

‘‘The weather is creating lots of stress for farmers because of its unpredictable nature,’’ he said.

While the rain might have passed, the hot weather will be the next obstacle for growers.

Mr Weeks said keeping plenty of moisture under the crops was one of the best defences against the heat.

By Emma Carinci on December 29, 2015
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