16 Dec 2022

On the Farm - a wrap of farming conditions around NZ

From On the Farm, 7:07 pm on 16 December 2022

Heavy rain in Pukekohe mid-week made the ground too wet to dig potatoes or lift onions. Cherry picking is underway in Otago. The last two weeks have seen warm days and cool nights which has been good for ripening and flavour.

Santa waves hello on his big red tractor.

Santa waves hello on his big red tractor. Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

It's been raining all week in Northland - although farmers will take what they can get at this time of year. The blue sky on Thursday had people staring up in disbelief. It had been such a long time since they had seen one, they'd almost forgotten what it looked like. Grass is growing like mad, so all is good with the world. Our contact was taking a mental health day with a round of golf. Thanks to labour shortages he's been working for six months without a proper break.

Heavy rain in Pukekohe mid-week made the ground too wet to dig potatoes or lift onions. Potato crops are producing good yields off a reduced planted area following adverse wet weather months ago and growers are doing their best harvesting other crops too. The weather next week looks just as challenging when pre-Xmas supply needs to meet strong demand.

Waikato's blueberry harvest started this week - at least when the rain wasn't falling. There are berries sitting on the plant waiting to be picked but with downpours happening most days it might be a stretch to get them into the supermarket. Lack of sunlight and too much rain this spring means there aren't as many berries around either. And growers aren't too keen on cheap specials as a result. Our contact says it's a year to forget.

Blue skies have been hard to find across the country this week.

Blue skies have been hard to find across the country this week. Photo: RNZ/Leah Tebbutt

It's just awful in Bay of Plenty ... so wet. Our contact can't remember when there was a nice day. The soil is saturated and staff too as they try and get work done around the orchard in between showers. However, maize is growing fantastically. There's an old adage ... if the maize has grown past the fencepost by Christmas it's a good crop. Well, it's past the fencepost already, although there is no sunlight to get the dry matter bulked up.

Shearers are running behind in King Country. With lots of rain, there haven't been two or three days in a row where both shearers and haymakers can get a chunk of work done. There's plenty of fly strike around, too, because of the wet.

It's warming up in Taranaki. There's still an unusual amount of rain for this time of year ... normally the region would be drying out by now. But good rain means good grass growth so there's a lot of silage being made. It's the best December in a long time and our contact says it's making up for what they describe as a crappy spring.

Grass growth is magnificent on the East Coast, in part due to drizzly conditions. Farmers are keeping an eye on animal health with the humidity - it could prove an issue. There are whispers the first watermelons are being picked this week and sweet corn is in full flight.

Two kingfishers enjoying the sights and smells of Summer

Two kingfishers enjoying the sights and smells of Summer Photo: Supplied/Craig Paterson

Hawke's Bay has been sitting out a 10-day wet stretch. Grass is growing - an odd occurrence for the region at this time of year. Arable crops are going well - at least those that survived the spring wet period. Our contact says stock in Hawkes Bay generally does better in a drier year than a wet one so both livestock and crops are asking for a bit more sunshine.

There's no shortage of feed in Manawatū. Some places have had quite a bit of rain, some haven't. Stock is good although the prices for lamb are a bit sticky. It's best described as that awkward time of year when expectations are not being met, so it's time to redo budgets.

Rain was welcomed in Wairarapa on Thursday. Dry, warm weather has been the mainstay in the region. It looks like a promising season for olives. Flowering is underway, and fruit sets are all looking really good. Baleage guys are going hard at it with lots of surplus around the place.

Baleage cut ahead of rain scheduled this weekend.

Baleage cut ahead of rain scheduled this weekend. Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Dreadful rain in Nelson has resulted in slow flowering and fruit set for pinot gris and pinot noir. Although, the sauvignon blanc is looking good so it's a mixed bag. Growers are having to spray for mildew every time there are 20 millimetres of rain, which is keeping them busy. Leaf plucking is underway so grapes can soak up the sunshine when it arrives.

It's very green and there's been a lot of growth in Marlborough - here, too, it's usually crispy and brown come December. It's been a jolly good season, with vineyards growing like mad although growers have to be diligent on their spray programmes to control mildew. Our contact says the state of farmers' mental health is not too flash right now. Most are at a loss of what to do with regulations piling on top of financial woes.

The West Coast is officially growing grass. It's been a smashing week with amazingly hot days and nice warm rain to round out the week. On the other hand, it's causing a few problems for contractors flat-out making silage and farmers trying to maintain pasture quality. Most people have finished AI breeding and hoping to get their jobs done so they can take a few days off around Christmas.

Mistletoe in Central Otago.

Mistletoe in Central Otago. Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

There's been a flurry of activity around the traps in Canterbury as farmers try and get ahead of the game for the holiday period. Weaning, shearing, silage making and spraying is all go during the busy season. Some forecast rain next week won't go amiss and will hopefully allow for a few to catch their breath. 

In Otago, cherry picking started up on Monday - in time for the Christmas Day table. The last couple of weeks has seen warm days and cool nights which is good for ripening and flavour. Most varieties have a full crop or thereabouts. Those which aren't picked until mid to late January have a lighter yield this season, but our contact says he will make up for volume with improved fruit size as smaller crops produce better fruit usually. The export market is also being fed and most people hired are showing up for the job. All in all, it's a lot more encouraging than the past couple of years.