Three weeks of on and off rain, with the weekend’s storm a sting in the tail, have caused widespread damage to arable crops up and down the country.
“Talking to farmers who have been around for a while, some of them are calling it the worst harvest season in living memory,” Federated Farmers Arable Chairperson Colin Hurst said.
“Normally we’d be most of the way through harvest by now but three weeks of continual rain held everything up, and now many parts of the country were hammered by the remnants of the cyclone.”
Only Southland seems relatively unaffected.
Wheat crops are turning black in Mid and North Canterbury and there’s likely to be a shortage of good quality grain to turn into flour. Hectares planted in wheat for milling were already down because of changes to buying arrangements and concern about a lack of competition, Colin said.
Farmer feedback from Canterbury and flooded parts of the Wairarapa are that up to half – and in some cases all – of pea crops have been ruined.
The reports to Federated Farmers are that crops grown for seed in Canterbury will be down on yield, and in some places down on quality. Drying space is at a premium. Wet soil also hinders the natural drying of seed crops and so harvest is not going to be easy even as weather improves.
One farmer said that clover crops around Methven now resemble hay crops and the heads have largely disappeared into the foliage, with sprouting of those crops happening.
In flooded parts of the Wairarapa, cereal crops have a lot of silt on them, which is damaging to harvesting machinery.
In the Hawke’s Bay, vegetable (sweetcorn, beans squash) harvest has been interrupted and beans have been hit hard with sclerotinia. Water logging has caused younger bean plants to die.
The remnants of Cyclone Dovi also severely knocked around a lot of maize crops in the Waikato – north Taranaki areas.
“We get patches of rough weather this time of year but it’s very unusual to have such a sustained period of rain,” Colin said.
“The challenge now is to dry out what we can and salvage what is left of the harvest.”