Mixed blessing for those on the land

The Mataura River in flood near the Pyramid Bridge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
The Mataura River in flood near the Pyramid Bridge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
Recent heavy rain and hail has had a mixed impact in Otago, destroying millions of dollars of cherry crops, but boosting grass growth for farmers.

MetService forecaster Gerard Bellam said several parts of Otago recently received more than a month’s average rainfall, in a much shorter time, including 89mm at Alexandra (monthly average 58mm) in the 24 hours to 3pm on Saturday.

Dunedin’s 85mm monthly average was exceeded by the 104mm which fell in the three days until Sunday, Mr Bellam said.

Central Otago Fruitgrowers Association chairwoman Trudi Webb said the rain had badly damaged some cherry crops, which were an important part of overall Central Otago fruit production.

Mrs Webb, who is also a Cromwell orchard owner, said fruit on her orchard was not damaged this time.

Dave Cooke, who farms 20ha of cherries, apricots and plums at Roxburgh, said the orchard had been close to finishing but about 70% of fruit was damaged.

His 10ha apricot crop had ‘‘a reasonable amount of marking, especially at the top of the trees’’.

The plums had already been mostly blown on the ground with the ‘‘crazy winds in November/December’’, he said.

This was the third damaging La Nina year he had experienced in 21 years of orchard work but, fortunately, already had several tonnes of fruit in the coolstore.

Federated Farmers Otago provincial president Simon Davies said the recent rain had been a ‘‘get out of jail’’ card for dairy and meat and wool farmers in North Otago and South Canterbury after what had been increasingly dry conditions.

The rain had been damaging for cherry farmers, and some farmers had experienced infrastructure damage. Some farmers on the Taieri had significant ponding on their properties which could kill grass if it remained too long.

Most dairy, meat and wool farmers were generally ‘‘pretty happy’’ that the extra rain would help produce more grass growth and mean a more positive outlook for summer.

Most farmers were ‘‘not too concerned about the little bit of infrastructure damage’’ they had incurred even when the amount of rain was more than they really required, Mr Davies said.

Federated Farmers North Otago dairy chairman Alan Harvey, who farms at Five Forks, west of Oamaru, said about 80mm of rain that fell last Friday night and Saturday had damaged some fences, land and roads.

However, the overall outcome, including stronger grass growth, was ‘‘really good’’, he said.

The MetService said one North Otago weather station recorded 134mm of rain in the 24 hours to 3pm on Saturday.

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