The VOG Consortium farmers in South Tyrol – Südtirol use candles and anti-frost systems to protect the harvest on freezing spring nights

A dazzling concentration of lights that illuminate the fields. This is the romantic sight, often immortalised on websites and the social media, that you could have observed on the last few nights in South Tyrol – Südtirol. In the apple orchards neatly arranged on the slopes and hills of this region, the fruit growers of the VOG Consortium employ anti-frost systems to warm up the flowering plants and protect them from the freezing temperatures of these spring nights. An evocative image from an aesthetic perspective, behind which there is an extremely precise organisational machine and, above all, the untiring passion of the many farmers that strive to preserve nature and their precious work.

“At this time of year the nights that drop below zero can cause serious damage to our apple orchards”, explains Walter Pardatscher, CEO of the VOG Consortium. “The spring frost can destroy the delicate buds of the orchards and compromise part of the harvest from both a quantitative and qualitative point of view”. If this doesn’t happen it is because when night comes, and with it the risk of frost, a specific App notifies all of the Consortium’s farmers who take action right away.

“The best system for protecting the orchards is the one that uses anti-frost irrigation”, continues the CEO. “In fact, when passing from the liquid to the solid state water creates energy which, in turn, generates heat: the layer of frost that forms inside the flower protects it because inside the temperature never falls below zero and the bud is therefore able to survive. “Once they are aware of the danger, the fruit growers consult each other (virtually, of course) and, on the basis of their experience, decide if and when to activate these systems. The moisture content of the air, wind and other parameters are decisive factors. In fact, if activated at the wrong moment the anti-frost systems can even cause damage.” 

And the candles? “They come into play where it isn’t possible to use irrigation systems, for example in areas where there isn’t enough water to irrigate. It is a very expensive but very eye-catching system: the special candles are positioned between the rows and have to stay lit all night. An onerous task, made even more demanding by the fact that the farmers also have to respect the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 health emergency, but necessary so as not to compromise the harvest of the famous VOG Consortium Marlene® apples.

“The passion of our farmers, together with our levels of organisation and attention to detail, enable us to manage this delicate phase of the year with great care and precision”, concludes Walter Pardatscher.