If there was ever a time to be in the shoes of Chinchilla district melon farmer Cameron Turner, it's now.
The manager of Sweetlife Farms Australia's Haliden property, situated 40km north-east of Chinchilla, is in the midst of picking the first full crop of new rockmelon variety Infinite Gold and it’s already shaping as their “best crop in years”.
Haliden was one of the first properties to trial Infinite Gold in September 2013 when they were approached by South Pacific Seeds to grow six plants.
While seeds for the hard shell variety cost double a traditional melon, Mr Turner said its longer shelf life of up to two weeks and extended harvesting period made it worthwhile.
“It has been the best growing season and best crop we have had for years,” Mr Turner said.
“What we have harvested so far has been way beyond yield expectations.
“We have been doing a lot of work on trialling it for a number of years but it has made a difference, it’s a very good variety.
“It doesn’t go overripe so it’s a lot easier for our pickers to harvest it at the ideal state because it has a little bit of leeway. You haven’t got to be there right on the exact day.”
It's a sweet relief for Mr Turner who lost two thirds of his crop in October 2015 when a freak storm lashed the region.
Instead of turning to new methods or technology during the next planting rotation, Mr Turner stuck to what he had always done and thankfully “all the elements aligned”.
“It was devastating. It was terrible. It took a lot of getting over”.
“We had more than one hail storm, we ended up with three storms...from October 2015 and then went into 2016.
“We salvaged what we could out of that crop (in 2015) and we just carried on then and just did the same thing that we normally do.”
Close to 80 people, the majority of them backpackers, work at Haliden picking the 160 hectares of rockmelons, 60 hectares of watermelons due to be picked in coming days and 60 hectares of pumpkins in Autumn.
Mr Turner said they were lucky to have found a new variety of melon that was a winner for both the producer and the customer.
“It will be a great thing for the industry and it will give consumers a real confidence in what they are buying,” he said.
“A lot of these varieties what happens with them is all the seed companies come down and want to do trials, you trial thousands of them over the time and you get one here and there that works.
“We were just lucky that we got one that was good for us. I’m not saying by any means that it will work for everyone but it works here in our area. We are very confident going ahead.”
Article written and published by Queensland Country Life
10th January 2017