SYDNEY, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- With Queensland experiencing their driest February on record and temperatures soaring 5-10 degrees hotter than average, pineapple and dragon fruit farmers are using "sunscreen" to protect their crops.
As the fruit nears harvest it becomes highly susceptible to sunburn, so growers have developed a product by using crushed limestone.
"It's a natural product that turns the patch white, so you spray it on with water and it goes white and that reflects the heat and stops them from burning," farmer Murray Pike said.
But this solution is only used for produce that will be canned because the white substance leaves the fruit stained in appearance.
For fruit that will be sold to supermarkets as fresh produce, a number of other solutions are being tried.
"We did cover some of ours with paper bags and shredded paper, but that's very labor-intensive and quite expensive to do," Pineapple farmer Les Williams said.
"This year we've been fortunate ... for whatever reason pines are sitting lower in the plant so they've been shaded from the sun, but any gaps in the crop canopy is like putting a magnifying glass on the crops."
Other natural sunscreens have been experimented with to varying degrees of success, most often they can not fully protect the fruit without altering its appearance.
"When a plant is stressed it just shuts down to defend itself, and the produce it does put out is smaller, the product is diminished, and we can't get the heat out of the fruit quick enough," dragon fruit farmer Bruce Wallace said.
Many growers are expected to lose a significant amount of produce in Queensland this harvest, due to the extreme heat.
To make matters worse, the drop in revenue will be compounded by an increase in the cost irrigation during the severely dry season.