Kiwifruit Vines Impacted by Frost

Kiwifruit orchard foreman Dave Trafford. Photo: Leah Tebbutt/RNZ.

"It looks like we've just finished winter pruning."

That's Dave Trafford, a kiwifruit orchard foreman, as he showcased the extent of the damage caused by an early October frost.

At the base of the Kaimai ranges at Ōmanawa sits the six-hectare orchard. Four hectares to the green Hayward variety and two to the gold kiwifruit.

"We've probably lost well over 50 percent. That's our rough estimate - that's our hopeful estimate."

While the cold snap brought snow to the South Island and isolated parts of the North, the cold air moved up. Unfortunately, it settled in the low-lying areas of this orchard and the vine was "just toasted".

Trafford said their other orchards in Te Puke and Paengaroa have frost protection, including overhead sprinklers that saved the buds. It was there the attention was turned as the frost settled that early morning.

It was only when he came to the orchard the day after, he realised what had happened.

"Very rarely do we have a frost here and so it's one of those 'once in a blue moon' occasions. As you travel down these edges that were close to the shelter, they survived a bit more.

Photo: Leah Tebbutt/RNZ.

"It happened just after bud break. Most of the growth we had on the orchard was about two or three inches long and four or five leaves on that - and it all got singed."

Trafford points out an almost two-hectare block between the shelters of tall hedge. There are probably 0.2 hectares that remain luscious thanks to the shelter and most of the buds have aborted and fallen off, he says.

"In a bay like this, we usually have 1400 flower buds in this 25 square metre type area. And you can probably count maybe 50 fruit if you're lucky.

"You just have to walk away for a while I think and pretend it didn't happen. But kiwifruit is a weed, it keeps growing, it's a vine so you're just going to have to take a hit for a while and hopefully you will survive it."

Along the sides, near the shelters, a group of workers stand under the vines, with leaves providing them much-needed shade as the sun beats down.

They're bud thinning the little that remains, Trafford says.

"We'd usually have about 60 people trying to get through this in a day. And these guys will be finished soon, 10 of them."

Trafford says there are stories he's heard of an eight-hectare orchard that looks barren right the way through. He says it's hard to find people right across the Western Bay of Plenty who weren't affected.

"It will fire up because there is no fruit on here, so the plant has a lot of energy to do something. It's going to grow a lot of green growth and by Christmas time it will be pretty green in here and a lot of work to do.

"You can see new growth pushing...but it has no fruit on it. Just happy it wasn't on all of our orchards, just this one."

This story was originally published on and is republished with permission.