Farmers on alert for crop damage as vines and orchards remain under threat

SAVED: Vigneron David Gartrell explains how close fire came to his property on Sunday. Photo: ANDREW MURRAY 0212amfire13
SAVED: Vigneron David Gartrell explains how close fire came to his property on Sunday. Photo: ANDREW MURRAY 0212amfire13

Vignerons and orchardists on Mount Canobolas are on alert for any flare up in the fire after they survived the first two days of the blaze without major damage.

The fires have occurred at a critical time as apple picking is due to start fully next week with the grapes about five weeks off.

Orange Region Vignerons Association president Justin Jarrett said the next few days would be crucial.

“To the best of my knowledge fires haven’t burnt a vine,” he said.

“There’s been no damage to the actual crops.”

Mr Jarrett said smoke damage to the grapes remained a concern.

“It’s too early to tell about smoke taint.

“Literally, the fires are still not yet out.”

He said it was expected in about 10 days some grapes would be sent to the Australian Wine Research Institute, or possibly examined in Orange, to test for tainting from the smoke.

The vineyard under the biggest threat on Sunday was David and Carolyn Gartrell’s Wattleview on Mount Lofty Road.

Mrs Gartrell said work by her husband and firefighters had saved the day.

“Full credit to the RFS and the helicopter bombers,” she said.

“It was pretty scary.”

The fire also came near the adjacent De Salis Winery property.

De Salis owner and winemaker Charlie Svenson said they had survived the blaze unscathed.

“The westerly winds pushed the fire parallel to us,” he said.

“The vineyard and the property survived it thanks to the local volunteers.

“We won’t have any taint [from smoke] in ours [grapes].”

Orchardist Peter West said it appeared most crops had survived without damage.

“I don’t think that it has caused a problem,” he said.

Orange Mountain Wines owner Julie Dolle said she was one of the more fortunate vineyard owners.

“We’ve been on alert but we are pretty good,” Mrs Dolle said.

“There’s others on the mountain, they were at risk, we are very fortunate at this stage, we haven’t had any embers here.”

However, she said they stayed on alert and made sure they were prepared.

She said smoke posed a hazard to the ripening fruit.

“We lost our fruit one year and it’s not the year you lose the fruit, it’s the following year [in wine sales],” she said.

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