Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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We all have a part to play

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It looks like all of those warnings we’ve been hearing for at least 20 years about the impacts on weather of climate change have come true – and with vengeance.

I said in the April column the weather had been weird, and it just got weirder. We were fortunately able to harvest our maize in the few fine days between cyclones Debbie and Cook.

However, the ground was so wet we had to pull some trucks out with tractors and the paddocks were pretty roughed up with deep trench marks. Springs have sprung up where no springs had been before and we nearly lost machinery in one hole.

Instead of direct drilling grass seed as I would normally do, we will have to work up the paddocks to get them ready for sowing because they are so badly rutted, in preparation for winter grazing.

However, we have been luckier than some maize growers who didn’t manage to get their crops off and any that are waterlogged won’t survive because the plants start to die when their roots are deprived of oxygen for too long. Some that have blown over in the Whakatane region also have silt on them, which can potentially cause problems with ensiling, but with the correct inoculant this problem can be addressed.

We have been fortunate enough to meet all orders for maize silage but unfortunately some others haven’t, so given the ongoing bad weather it looks like supplementary feed will be in short supply this season. We have reasonable stocks and are able to source some if required.

Tough on farmers

The extensive flooding around Whakatane, Edgecumbe and Papamoa has been extremely hard on farmers with cows having to be dried off, stock moved and issues of re-establishing pasture in time for winter and milking in the spring.

Some kiwifruit orchards around Edgecumbe were also flooded and the continuing rain delayed picking, causing headaches for growers and post-harvest operators.

While there’s no argument that the rain brought by these two ex-tropical cyclones was extreme, we have to be prepared for more of the same in future; and councils and roading authorities have to play a part in helping farmers have some control over flooding.

It took me three months to get resource consent to clean a drain near railway lines. That’s far too long and now I have to deal with not just local bodies but also roading authorities to get permission to do what was done as routine back in the ‘good old days’ when the catchment commissions had responsibility for drains and canals.

Pests and diseases

The weather might be tough for farmers but you can bet there will be some critters out there that will love these warm wet conditions and be lurking, ready to cause havoc on crops and pastures, so farmers need to be on the lookout for pests, both insects and weeds, and disease now too.

Thankfully, it appears the milk price is holding and Fonterra’s predicted $6 payout should be certain.

Cyclones Debbie and Cook are a reminder that we all – farmers, growers and those living in urban areas – have to take responsibility for what’s happening to our environment and climate and do what we can to help bring about change.

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