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Choppers fight frost in New Zealand

Published:  23 July, 2008

New Zealand: 100 helicopters flew frost protection missions in the Marlborough's grape country on Thursday night in what wine growers say was one of the toughest frosts they have faced.

The helicopters, costing NZ$3,000 an hour, were fighting the frost flying low over the vines.

New Zealand Wine Growers chairman Stuart Smith said: "When you have a radiation frost the heat radiates out from the surface of the earth (and) gets trapped in an inversion layer, and then the wind machine or the helicopter is able to (push) that warm air down and circulate it around the vines."

Chopper pilot Jamie Henery told TV New Zealand: "Some guys that are here parked with us at the moment are from Taupo. I'm from the Fox Glacier so gives you an idea of how far away we've come from."

The choppers were not the only method employed to stave off the cold and Smith says there has been a lot of investment by the industry in frost protection measures.

Growers say it will be a few days before they know the extent of the damage but they are hoping the massive mobilisation of helicopters has saved the bulk of their budding vines.