Frosts bring "urgency" to NZ kiwifruit harvest
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) CEO Nikki Johnson has emphasized frosts that have occurred over the last few days haven't been unusual, and the overall volume packed is still on par with last season.
In a statement given to Fresh Fruit Portal, Johnson drew attention to heavy rainfall in April impacting the timing and consistency of the harvest, and put the current context of the season into perspective.
"At the moment, the industry is well over halfway through harvest. SunGold kiwifruit is nearly fully packed and the focus is now on Green," she said.
"The last few days have been a lot colder than this time last year – which was an exceptionally warm winter with picking through June/July. However, the frost that occurred over the last couple of days wasn’t unusual.
"Growers take frost damage into consideration - it's par for the course. It's winter, frosts occur and they're managed. Many orchards have fans or overhead sprinklers which reduces damage significantly."
She said while frosts had the potential to damage kiwifruit, but there was a degree of protection for the fruit at this stage of the season with full canopies on the vines.
"There have been some reports of frost prone orchards having parts of their canopies scorched – but little reports of affect to kiwifruit," she said.
"This does however mean that there is bit more urgency to harvest for the growers concerned though, as once there is leaf drop in the canopies, the fruit is more exposed when the next frost comes."
Johnson's comments were echoed by Zespri's GM for grower and external relations Dave Courtney.
"Frost is not unexpected as we come into winter in New Zealand and kiwifruit growers are usually well-prepared to manage the risk using frost fans or over-head sprinklers," Courtney said.
"The colder weather and frost will likely encourage growers who haven’t already picked their crop to harvest as soon as possible.
"Frost can damage kiwifruit but at this stage of the season, with full canopies on the vines, there is a degree of protection for the fruit. Many orchards also have frost protection in place, with frost fans and overhead water jets."