MOST afternoons in Leeton shire the sky is covered with a smoky haze of late.
The shire’s rice growers are in the process of burning off their paddocks, but the annual ritual is causing some angst among the community.
Health concerns have been raised, with the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) calling on growers to burn responsibly.
Other industries have also been undertaking the practice.
Rice extension officer Gae Plunkett said it was important growers took all possible steps to minimise the effects of smoke on neighbouring townships to their property.
“Rice growers are preparing for the planting of winter crops and many will be burning stubble,” Mrs Plunkett said.
“We ask them to reduce the effects on those living nearby. Inflicting smoke on nearby residents isn’t okay.”
Mrs Plunkett said improved understanding of how wind and air conditions disperse smoke would lead to responsible decisions when burning.
“Growers should plan their burning strategy to avoid inappropriate conditions for burning,” she said.
“This means avoiding burning wet stubble or burning when winds will blow smoke across roads or towards towns.
“Understanding how to avoid inversion layers is also critical to prevent smoke settling over residential areas.
“Growers should use the mixing height tool on the Bureau of Meteorology website to avoid this situation when planning stubble burns.” Mrs Plunkett said growers who were uncertain about burning off should refer to the responsible stubble management fact sheet on the RGA website.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District advised people with chronic respiratory conditions living in areas to stay indoors if levels of smoke pollution increase.
Director of public health Tracey Oakman warned the health affects from breathing fire smoke varied between people.
“Asthma sufferers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should follow their action plans,” she said.