19 Jul

Olives hard hit by bad weather

By Michelle Nelson,

Snow and heavy frosts hit at the worst possible time for the olive harvest this year.
Local growers Rosaly and Mike McKinstry’s crop is a write-off.
Mrs McKinstry said the severe frosts following the snowfall had damaged some of the ripening fruit and picking had been abandoned for the season.


“We might go through and pick 10 or 15 kilos by hand, but bad olives can spoil the whole batch of oil,” she said.
A lot of the older trees in the grove were snow-damaged but looked likely to make a full recovery by next season.
“We’ve been busy cleaning up and pruning back the damage.
“They look really good now – just a bit ugly,” she said.
Young trees had weathered the storm well and would benefit from the high water table when spring comes.
Other growers in the district had fared slightly better, beginning their harvest before the storm hit.
Jeff and Fiona Williamson managed to harvest some of their olive crop but the storm damaged older trees in their grove.
Mrs Williamson said the fruit had ripened earlier this season and the crop was in prime condition just before the snowstorm.
The Williamsons had also processed some fruit off Phyllis and Ken McKinstry’s lifestyle block.
Some of the 200-odd trees in the Williamsons’ grove had been culled as a result of snow damage and many trees had been left twisted and in need of repair.
“We’ve had to take a chainsaw to some of them.
“We’ve been doing a lot of pruning and repair work but they will bounce back,” Mrs Williamson said.
The Barnea trees, which require a pollinator, had been particularly hard-hit but Mrs Williamson said the trees had not been a great success and would probably be replaced with a different type of olive.
“The Barnea crop was always hit and miss anyway. They will perform but when is the question.
We are looking at replacing them with Allenton olives,” she said.
Mrs Williamson said they had come through well compared with some olive growers and she had heard of growers faced with replanting their entire grove as a result of snow damage.
“We’re lucky. For us it’s a lifestyle choice – it could have been a lot worse but it could also have been a lot better,” she said.
On a brighter note the Williamsons’ hazel trees had come through the storm well and the couple are planning to plant more.

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