With a high chance of an El Nino summer, which can bring dry conditions, particularly to the East Coast and Northland farmers and growers can start planning now to mitigate the risks. Some councils are already reporting dipping soil moisture levels below typical. Our AgFirst consultants have briefly addressed different areas of the industry in relation to predicted droughts and encourage individual stakeholders to reach out to their local consultant to start planning now for the summer ahead.
By identifying you early warning indicator and the actions will you take if a trigger point is reached you will be in a better position. You will need to develop multiple trigger points, this helps mitigate risk. Spending time to develop a plan right now is critical. Including your summer feed plan, and what is your plan if the dry weather continues until late autumn/early winter. Off-loading stock may also be more cost-effective and practical than buying in feed supplement – although this is a case by case decision. Killing space as processors may be at a premium so please don’t just assume you will get space be proactive and book early as you can always lower the numbers you need to send depending on conditions.
Our experience with farmer clients that have successfully navigated through previous drought suggested that they had a formal planning process, and actively managed the plan working alongside their trusted advisors, effectively spreading the load with key stakeholders including staff. As always, look after yourself and your neighbours – check-in with each other, share resources if needed, having a plan will help take some pressure off when times get tough.
One of our clients hit the nail on the head- “A failure to plan is planning to fail”. Think about the key actions you took (as well as things you could have done better) to get through previous droughts and have a plan to implement these early. Our professional team of consultants is on hand to help you navigate through any situation on farm so get in touch.
Dryer, windier and warmer conditions will increase the need for irrigation, increase wind damage and fruit scuffing and shut down the growth in young trees that are not being well looked after (irrigation and tree support). Dry conditions also reduce river flow levels and this can lead to irrigation ban events so having a plan in place for irrigation will be critical.
After 2 years of La Nina the effective rooting depth of trees is likely to be compromised apart from where soil drainage is excellent. Which means that the wet blocks are most likely to show drought symptoms first. Sunburn is also a very real risk in hot late summer conditions but can be less of an issue if fruit is exposed to sun / heat and wind from early in the season (forming good skin cuticle). Long sunny days do increase potential carbohydrate production (tree growth, fruit size, fruit yield, dry matter). However fruit size accumulation does significantly decrease in apples if temperature are above 30 deg C.
As conditions dry out late sneaky frosts can be an issue, hail incidence can increase when heat meets cold fronts, and warm dry diseases such as Fire Blight and Powdery Mildew can increase so communication with staff and staying on top of spraying plans will be crucial. However Hot / dry conditions are also likely to help with the reduction of wet diseases such as Black Spot and European Canker along with good orchard management practices.
Overall, the block across the country are looking good considering the conditions of the last 12 months and there is an expectation that the seasonal weather conditions should generally be more positive for growing apples than the 2023 growing season. As always get in touch with your AgFirst consultants to make the best plan for your blocks this season.