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South Australia enduring consecutive frosts

Grower lathers crops in molasses

As South Australian temperatures plummet below zero severely damaging crops, some growers are turning to creative methods to protect their produce.

Meteorologist Matthew Bass said it was the region's sixth consecutive day below zero. When the dewpoint temperature has dropped below zero and the air is condensed to form ice crystals which then land on a surface, each year, millions of dollars worth of crops in Australia are destroyed.

"If it's a very dry air mass, sometimes the temperature can drop below zero without that white frost forming, but obviously that can still do damage to plants and things that freeze," Mr Bass said.

Citrus grower Mark Doecke has had four consecutive frosts at his 30-hectare property at Sunlands about 200 kilometres north-east of Adelaide. He has delayed picking his fruit because of the frost. "You might have a frost or two, that's okay, but when you get four in a row and not very warm days it sort of accumulates the affect," he said.

It can damage the skin on citrus or it can freeze cells inside the orange so then it dries out when it thaws out—one's cosmetic and one's internal quality. "When it comes to selling your fruit you'll have a dry patch on top of the orange, so you cut your nice looking orange up and it's got this big dry bit in the middle of it."

There are strategies to counteract the most severe damage from frost, including the use of frost fans and keeping the soil moist, but Mr Doecke is trying a different method. He has turned to using the thick, sugary syrup molasses.

Source: abc.net.au


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