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AU: Watermelon production recovering after heavy Queensland storms

A Queensland watermelon producer is extremely pleased to still have a crop for the Australian market, despite heavy rainfall less than two months ago.

General Manager, Greensill Farming Group, Damien Botha recalls that some of the company's farms based across the Bundaberg region, received around 500 millimetres of rainfall in seven days in October. This initial rain event was then followed by further significant rainfall into November, and while he says there will be a definite impact on yield, the crops have come through surprisingly well.

"Our spring season is now well underway and weather events have proved a challenge, one to maintain crops and second to ensure we have fruit for the markets we supply," Mr Botha said. “The significant rainfall leads to some challenges in terms of getting equipment onto farms, also the amount of moisture and lack of good weather directly impacts yield and the quality of fruit. But now we have overcome that."

Photo: Peter Greensill, Owner & CEO planting seedlings

He puts it down to several strategies implemented by the farm management team that has allowed them to mitigate the significance of the impact.

"One of the major focuses for us on each of our farms is irrigation and drainage," Mr Botha said. "The land is developed in a way that we can generally cope with large volumes of the rain, and further our approach focuses on sustainability with water reticulated to capture sediment and nutrient run-off. Ironically (the rain came) after a period of drought where we had no rain for basically the entire year - it all came very very quickly. But to date there have been no huge impacts and we are still producing fruit which is a great outcome and credit to the team."

Mr Botha expects the quality of the fruit to improve until mid-January, with large volumes going out week to week.

"The spring crop will go a little later than usual," he said. "The poor weather and lack of sunlight has certainly delayed the growth cycle. In terms of yields from a watermelon perspective, it is difficult to see where those will end this year so early in the piece."

With over 2000 hectares of productive land across the Bundaberg region, the Greensill watermelon crop occupies approximately 5-10 per cent of that land as a rotation crop annually. Focused on the seedless variety, the company supply their melons to Select Melons Australia, which is a collaboration with a bunch of growers, and essentially they market the product, distribute and supply a number of outlets as third party on behalf of the growers. Mr Botha says currently, due to the lack of supply, pricing is quite high from a grower perspective.

"With the recent weather events demand is high because the supply of quality fruit to the market is down, directly impacting on price," he said. "Many growers will have been impacted by the weather to the extent that they are unable to supply volumes that they would have normally. For ourselves, our yields will be down, but the extent of the impact won’t be known till our harvesting is complete. The good news is the appetite for watermelons is high and seedless watermelons are very much a part of Australian culture now.”

He adds that there is an appetite for Australian watermelons in New Zealand, paving the way for a growing export market.

For more information
Damien Botha
Greensill Farming Group
Phone: +61 7 4159 3137

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