Extreme heat, wild winds lash Victoria as farmers struggle to harvest crops

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Wild winds, storms and scorching temperatures are lashing parts of Victoria, with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing severe weather warnings for much of the state.

The wildly fluctuating weather and recent rain have made for highly challenging conditions for fruit growers and grain farmers, many of whom are struggling to harvest crops during the peak of their seasons.

Grain farmer Mick Elford discusses the weather with chaser bin driver Ryder Morriss. Credit: Erin Jonasson

There is a total fire ban in the Wimmera and Mallee regions. The bureau has issued a warning for damaging winds covering a large swath of Victoria, with gusts likely to reach 100 km/h, including in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Melbourne Airport recorded a wind gust of 87 km/h at 10.30am on Friday.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 45 degrees in Swan Hill and other parts of north-west Victoria on Friday.

Farmers across the state have been nervously eyeing the skies, hoping for a brief respite from the rain.

Rain drenched much of the state last week as summer began, causing floods in East Gippsland and saturating fruit orchards and grain fields in the state’s north and west.

The unusually wet weather has puzzled farmers, with many asking what happened to the El Niño pattern that typically results in warmer and drier weather.

Grain farmer Mick Elford said rain had already delayed some of his wheat and barley harvests on his farm near Swan Hill. He had been hoping the wet weather would hold off, so he could continue harvesting.

Mick Elford eyeing the skies.Credit: Erin Jonasson

“Everyone’s worried about it of course,” he said. “But you just learn to live with it. It’s part of farming.”

Farmers cannot harvest grains in the rain and a wet crop can result in quality downgrades that can easily cost growers hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Elford said while rain might be inconvenient at this time of year, it was better to have moisture in the soil than drought.

Stone fruit grower Mick Young said his farm at Woorinen, in Victoria’s north-west, had received only about 30 millimetres of rain last week, while nearby Swan Hill had received up to 90 millimetres.

But he said the wild fluctuation in temperatures and extreme heat followed by rain, could cause havoc for his nectarine, peach and plum crops.

SES volunteers surveying flooding last week in Gippsland.Credit: Facebook

Young said the scorching temperatures could burn the fruit as well as creating other problems that result in wrinkly skin.

“You just hope the inside of the fruit doesn’t crack,” he said.

Humidity can also result in insect infestations that ravage fruit crops, which plagued some growers last year.

“We’d rather have it hot and dry, not hot and humid.”

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