PROPERTY owners in Mornington Peninsula’s rural areas may find themselves in a quandary when it comes to their autumn burn-offs.
The Country Fire Authority says it, “partner” agencies and property owners will be making the most of the cooler weather “to conduct fuel reduction burns to lower bushfire risk”.
Although fire restrictions on the peninsula were lifted this week (Monday 24 April) but the Victorian Farmers Federation’s peninsula branch has asked farmers to delay burn-offs because the smoke could taint unpicked grapes.
“The vine fruit will be impacted by any smoke taint during this critical period, immediately prior to harvest across the peninsula farming region,” the VFF stated last week in a news release.
“In the past few weeks, the nets have come off the vineyards, and the 2023 vintage grape picking has commenced.”
The CFA also talks about smoke being a problem and says it will “work closely” with the Environment Protection Authority and Bureau of Meteorology “to keep smoke impact as low as practically possible”.
“Along with the important planned burns that are conducted in our forests, parks and reserves led by FFMV and the many kilometres of road, rail and grassland burns that are led by the CFA, this time of year also sees a large amount of smoke coming from the necessary burn-offs that our farmers and rural property holders complete,” CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said.
“These are part of traditional farming practices where burning off of crop stubble is often needed to kill off weeds and return nutrients and carbon back into the soil.
“As the weather conditions continue to become favourable for lower intensity burning, we will look to conduct the most suitable burns-offs to ensure that our dependent native bush and grasslands are benefitting and avoid much more devastating high intensity bushfires.”
The VFF news release issued by peninsula branch president Lisa Brassington urged “all farmers … to remember that you should never burn ‘unseasoned’ wet or green vegetation materials”.
“This generates excessive smoke across the region, creates smoke taint on vine grapes, decreases air quality for livestock and crops, and contributes to breathing issues for locals and visitors. If trees have recently fallen, you need to delay burning any vegetation debris.
“It is important that everyone in and visiting our rural community should be aware of the diverse and seasonal commodities that make up the peninsula’s vibrant and significant agricultural industry output, associated with the region’s food, fibre and beverage production.
“Farmers would be grateful if local rural and township community members are considerate of the vineyard fruit, and wait until the 2023 harvest is complete, before setting fire to the piles of fallen trees and branches that have built up over summer.”
For information about when and where planned burns are occurring sign up to Planned Burns Victoria at plannedburns.ffm.vic.gov.au and download the App.
If you see smoke and want to know if it is a planned burn or a fire, visit emergency.vic.gov.au, check the VicEmergency app or call the hotline on 1800 226 226.