Whats Happening in the Riverina – January, February & March 2021
You might have heard: It gets hot in the Riverina in summer. In fact, the long hot sunny days help make the region so productive. Good soils, predictable irrigation water supplies and high levels of rural technology are complemented by long hours of sunlight to encourage growth in the irrigated crops. January is when rice flowering occurs and farmers ensure their crops get a good drink during the whole month to encourage seed production. Cotton farmers are focussed on monitoring for insect and other crop damage and also on providing adequate soil moisture. Of the vegetable crops, tomatoes and potatoes are ready for harvest. The last of the cherry crop, mainly in the higher, cooler country, is harvested by an army of pickers – cherries are not usually harvested mechanically because it is important to keep the twig (called the peduncle) connected to the fruit. You’d be surprised how many different varieties of cherries are suited to and thus grown in different soil and temperature range districts. Around Griffith, cherry growers employ people to drive around their orchards making loud noises to scare away the crows, who have developed a taste for the fruit.
Tree and vine crops are fruiting. Valencia oranges and lemons are harvested. In the higher country blueberries and some other berry crops are making their way to markets.
Wine and table grape vines are heavy with bunches of berries. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and stone fruits such as pears, plums, pomegranates, peaches, nectarines continue to grow and begin to colour.
Beyond the irrigated lowlands in the low rolling hills most vegetation is in survival mode and livestock have their diet supplemented with hay baled earlier in the season.
Still hot, but activity begins to pick up. Wine grape harvest commences, mostly by large and complex machines. Table grapes have to look good so they are picked by hand, but there aren’t many commercial table grape growers in the Riverina, most table and dried grapes coming from further south around the Murray River region. Blueberries continue to yield. Cucurbits (melons, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, etc) and potatoes are harvested by an army of pickers working in the hot sun. Sugar plums are harvested by machines that shake the tree and catch the falling fruit, where they are sent for drying. Did you know that the Griffith/Leeton area produces 95% of Australia’s prunes? (Have you tried soaking prunes in port for a few weeks? Magic!!)
Rice farmers begin to drain off irrigation water in preparation for harvest to allow heavy harvesting machinery to enter the fields.
March is the month when the big machines get moving in the irrigated lowlands. Maize for both green chop (for feedlot animals) and grain, sweet corn (some of it for popping for the cinema market), remaining prunes, wine grapes, and all types of vegetables are readied for processing or for city markets. The tree nut harvest commences – walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and pecans are shaken from their trees and taken to sometimes quite large processing factories for sorting, treatment and packaging.
Valencia oranges are harvested to create the OJ Sydney-siders enjoy with their morning coffees.
Up in the high country, blueberries and similar crops continue to be harvested and early varieties of apples begin to hit the markets.
While all this is going on the dryland farmers are preparing their land for planting winter crops. Many are burning stubble from last winter’s crops and some are turning the soil in preparation for planting which usually begins in April or May.
The days are shorter and generally not so hot and pastures and native plants begin to recover from their summer hibernation.