CRITICAL TIME: Junction View farmer Teddy Lund said with melon harvesting in full swing, now would be the worst time for hail.
CRITICAL TIME: Junction View farmer Teddy Lund said with melon harvesting in full swing, now would be the worst time for hail. Dominic Elsome

Farmers watch the sky with jubilation and dread

AS THE days have warmed up, storms have begun to return to the region and while the rain they bring is much needed and appreciated, farmers also watch them with nervousness because of what they can also bring - hail.

Teddy Lund produces melons, pumpkins and cauliflowers on his 150-acre Junction View farm and said a bad storm could ruin a harvest in a moment.

"We're always worried about storms because it only takes five minutes to ruin your whole crop - melons are very touchy," Mr Lund said.

With storm activity predicted later this week, and ex-tropical cyclone Owen potentially reforming in the Gulf of Carpentaria, producers like Mr Lund are concerned for the potential of severe storms coming at a critical time.

"We're in the middle of harvest now, and within the next fortnight or three weeks is probably the worst time for us because we have got younger melons," he said.

Even moderate storms can cause significant damage to crops, rendering produce unmarketable.

"The small stuff can do enough damage on young melons, you've only got to mark the skin and when they grow they get little scars on them," he said.

He said high winds during storms were often the most damaging part of the events.

"You can have hail, and it'll fall gentle - but if you've got the wind behind it it's like a car hitting a brick wall," he said.

"Even if you don't get the hail, it can flatten your crops."

The impact of hail was often felt long after it had melted back into the ground.

"It does something to the ground, because you can't seem to grow anything for months, it sort of poisons the ground or freezes it - I don't know what it does, but there's something in the hail," he said.

There is little farmers can do to ward off the damage severe storms and hail can cause, and Mr Lund said it was often down to "the luck of the draw".

"A hail storm can fall in one area and your neighbour won't even get it 100 metres away," he said.

While the threat of crop damage from severe storms was ever-present, the region desperately needed rainfall, and Mr Lund said he would soon be forced to cut production due to low water volume.

Preparation key to averting disaster

When it comes to extreme weather events in Queensland, it's not a matter of if but when.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said over the past week Queensland had already experienced unprecedented bushfires, and more extreme weather events were likely over the summer period.

He urged primary producers to be prepared in case of major weather events.

"Although forecasts indicate that fewer cyclones may develop this season, it only takes one to cause severe damage," Mr Furner said.

"By taking preventative steps early, you can reduce the risk of damage and financial loss from disasters, and potentially save lives.

"Getting ready now can save you a lot of heartache after a disaster event and aid in your post-disaster recovery.

"We have a wealth of information to help landholders prepare for destructive weather."

Visit www.daf.qld.gov.au to view natural disaster guides to help prepare your animals for a natural disaster and to prepare your business.

For information on assistance after a natural disaster, the Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) website is a great source.

The site has a simple postcode and industry search function that provides a one stop shop of all industry specific, local, state, federal and not-for-profit assistance available in your local area.


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