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Hughenden grape farm, north-west Queensland

Frost-fighting choppers used for the first time

In north-west Queensland, helicopters are now being used to prevent frost damage. Marciano Table Grapes said the helicopters acted as an expensive fan to blow warmer air onto the crop in the Flinders Shire. Manager Maritz du Plessis said after nearly two years of developing the green, red and black table grape farm, growers could not risk their vines.

"If we get frost now, we'll basically lose our season," he said. "It's a real setback if frost were to hit now. We can still get vegetative growth afterwards, but we will miss our market window and the chance of having secondary bunches."

Frost fans are used in other farming areas in Australia, but Du Plessis said the helicopters were the best option for the farm. "It's more about access to helicopters and people who have got a licence to fly at night. That was the biggest thing because we don't know when a temperature inversion is going to take place."

Mr du Plessis said that although the weather was warming up, he would keep the helicopters on stand-by for the next couple of days.


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