Dry winter season produces top quality produce
TWO weeks ago, Andrew and Craig Mildren did not think their onion crop would produce a quality yield this season.
The crop had been irrigated but the onions were simply not "filling out”.
But in a turn of events, the Mildrens are frantically harvesting a good-looking crop that should provide a positive yield.
"They (onions) had been living on bore water, and we were watering our asses off, but they just were not responding,” Craig said.
"For some reason they have just exploded.
"The onions were small, they get sweet bugger all, we wanted medium and large ones - those sizes give us the tonnage,” Chris said.
Rain recorded during the past week in the Lockyer Valley has been a positive for farmers and Craig believed it would have helped the crop.
"It definitely didn't do any harm,” he said.
"Now we just have to get them harvested before they are damaged.”
He hoped the crop would produce 20 tonnes an acre with an exceptional crop producing 25-30 tonnes an acre.
The 50 acres of onions planted by the Mildren's at Lower Tent Hill this winter season are just a fraction of the Reck Farms' operation.
During winter it is broccoli, cabbage, wombok and lettuce, and in the summer time the Mildrens are busy with pumpkins, corn and potatoes.
Reck Farms is a family operation spanning three generations, with Andrew's son Cooper the fourth.
Farming about 1000 acres across multiple farms in the Lockyer Valley, the positive onion yield is a good step considering the tough drought conditions farmers are presently faced with.
With winter vegetables wrapping up, Andrew, a third-generation farmer, said despite the drought they had produced some their best crops this year.
"Our quality was very good considering the circumstances,” he said.
The past two weeks of production have been busy for Reck Farms, with onions coming out and pumpkins and corn going in.
"We planted like crazy before the rain,” Craig said.
"We've probably got enough moisture in the ground to bring the pumpkins up, but we've got to put a pre-emerger on them and it needs to be watered in.”
Looking forward, the Mildrens said if adequate rain did not eventuate soon, it was going to going to be a tough season.
"The lack of rain makes it hard, but we carry on,” Craig said.
"The drought has affected us all, it's not looking good for next year unless the creeks run.”
Andrew estimated the farm had received about 25millimetres of rain for the growing season, with previous decent rain falling earlier in March.
"Every crop has been irrigated this year, most of the crops haven't seen much rain for the growing season,” Andrew said.
The Mildrens said it was likely they would reduce the amount of grain they sow, despite its good market return.
Summer veg ready for rain
VEGETABLE farmers have received below average prices for winter crops this season due to an oversupply in the market.
Landmark Gatton's branch manager Chris Rutland said the relatively dry winter resulted in positive yields and quality but was unfortunately not backed up in the market.
"We didn't have any supply gaps in the market, hence why we didn't get a price bump,” he said.
Elders horticulture agronomist Greg Teske echoed Mr Rutland, saying because of the dry weather there were minimal pest and disease issues.
But he said recent rain was delaying harvest of some potato and onion crops.
"The growers have gone through six months of no rain, now they are having to wait to harvest because of the rain,” he said.
Corn, pumpkin, green bean, melon and tomato crops are expected to begin emerging soon with a number of the summer crops already in the ground.
Mr Rutland said growing conditions would come down to water availability.
He said during the winter crop growing season, growers had reasonable water quality and availability at planting, but towards the middle and end of the season the volume and quality declined.
"We're going to need some decent rainfall to top up bore levels and water quality,” he said.
"We're going to need four to six inches to have any effect on bore levels.”
Mr Rutland said bore levels would remain under pressure unless there was a small to medium flood event.