Poppies pray for sunshine

AFTER what has been one of the most challenging seasons for decades Tasmanian poppy crops are finally starting to flower.

A record wet spring has seen widespread damage to many crops and significant losses in some areas.

Extractas Bioscience field operations manager Noel Beven said it had been one of the toughest seasons he had seen since starting in the poppy industry three decades ago.

“I’ve been working in poppies for 31 years and it’s been one of the most challenging and also one of the most devastating in terms of area,” he said.

“The crops have been impacted pretty dramatically with too much wet.” In the crops which have managed to survive, there are varying amounts of damage.

“Some of them have got holes, some of them have got whole areas missing and there are very few crops which are even right across the paddock,” Mr Beven said.

While most crops in the North-West have escaped major damage, Mr Beven said between Sheffield and Oatlands there had been substantial losses.

“I guess the worst of the damage has really followed the mountain range down through the Midlands,” he said.

“Bothwell was fairly lucky, they missed most of the major rain events, so generally speaking Bothwell is pretty good, but a lot of the Midlands area has suffered through the big wets.”

Mr Beven said the company had resown about 500ha, which had been lost earlier in the season and finished in the middle of November.

“Unfortunately, they had two significant rain events on top of that which took them out again,” he said.

“So there has been very significant damage which involves over 1000ha.”

Mr Beven said the company would harvest about 2500ha this season, 0down from the 3500ha it had initially planned.

“The effect of that is we won’t have the product that we needed for sales,” he said.

“So, we’ve had to do some negotiating there and hopefully next year we’ll be able to grow enough to meet the shortfall.”

As well as getting the crops into the ground, Mr Beven said maintaining crop treatment programs had been difficult.

He said while paddocks with a long rotation history had fared quite well and escaped major fungal issues, crops in paddocks with shorter rotations had been impacted.

Crops which have been grown on raised beds this year have also performed better due to the improved drainage.

While some crops are now beginning to flower, Mr Beven said overall many are running late compared to normal.

“It is a bit unusual, they’re a bit later,” he said.

“The sowing date was a bit later in a lot of these cases, but they will come together quite quickly from now on.”

From now on most farmers are hoping the weather conditions improve, especially once harvest gets underway.

“What we need now is some more sun, and not just for poppies.”