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Cold snap troubles Australian growers

With temperatures plunging across many regions of Australia, growers in those areas have been forced to take radical action in a bid to save crops, but some are already badly damaged. Growers in South Australia's Riverland have seen temperatures drop to -5oCelsius at Sunlands, about 200 kilometres north-east of Adelaide, with the Bureau of Meteorology having recorded the state's coldest temperature at -5.8oCelsius in Gluepot.

Farmers in frost-affected areas have come up with creative strategies to protect their crops using everything from fans, to water and to molasses. Sunlands citrus grower Mark Doecke said the consecutive cold nights had damaged some of his citrus fruit. "It depends on the variety, sometimes the skin gets damaged on later varieties like late mandarins or navel oranges and sometimes the internal quality gets damaged," Doecke said.

Fellow Sunlands citrus grower Peter Walker said his young citrus trees had been hit the hardest. "They don't have a lot of canopy ... it's like a burn, it ruptures the sap in the young shoots and they just look like they have been burned," Walker said.

To protect their trees and fruit from freezing, the Riverland growers spray their crops with a molasses magnesium-sulphur mixture.

Doecke used a mixture to coat the fruit to give the trees more energy. "It helps maintain skin quality because the molasses is pure sugar and it doesn't freeze as easily."

Meanwhile, Riverland avocado growers are on edge, after severe frost events last year killed most of the fruit's flower buds. Waikerie avocado grower Justin Loffler says he uses warm water to keep temperature up on his farm.

"The first thing on avocado trees that gets affected around the -2 degree mark is we start to see flower buds getting killed," Loffler said. "But the damage varies from burning leaves to even freezing stems ... when it freezes the stems of that fruit will fall on the ground."


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