THE Victorian Farmers’ Federation wants farmers and other landowners to delay burning off to help protect Mornington Peninsula grape growers.
The VFF’s peninsula branch says this year’s harvest would be “highly impacted by smoke taint in this critical period immediately prior to harvest”.
Fire restrictions on the peninsula were lifted at 1am, Monday 15 March, while the nets will be coming off vineyards in the next few weeks before the start of picking.
The VFF says farmers should not be burning wet or green material as it generates more smoke. It says trees that have recently fallen will still be green and “that’s even more reason to delay burning the pile”.
“Everyone in our local rural community should be aware of all the commodities that make up the vibrant and significant agricultural output from the peninsula,” VFF peninsula branch president Geoff Coghill said.
“It’s not too much trouble to be considerate of vineyards and to wait another few weeks until after harvest, before you set fire to the piles of fallen trees and branches that landowners have built up over summer.”
The CEO of Mornington Peninsula Wine Olivia Barrie said smoke was most damaging to grapes just before harvest when their skins were thinnest.
“This is when their flavour is developing and they are ripe and full of sugar and the skins are very permeable,” she said.
“If ever smoke is going to get into the grapes it is now.”
Ms Barrie said the smoke danger period would last until mid-late April.
“We are about 55 per cent through the harvest and, with lovely weather forecast for the next two weeks, we hope to get it completed by then,” she said.
“We ask neighbours to think of those who might be affected by their burn-offs.
“The problem is that most people don’t think: it’s not malicious.”
Main Ridge CFA and VFF member Captain Ian Troutbeck said landholders must register burn-offs.
“Registering your burn-off ensures that if somebody reports smoke, the incident will be cross-checked with the burn-off register, which will then prevent CFA crews showing up at your door,” she said.
“When conducting burn-offs, remain alert and always have resources on hand to extinguish the fire.”