Crop one of the best yet
WITH no income from peanut and sorghum crops in two years, a Coalstoun Lakes farming family was depending on their watermelon crop for a cash flow.
At Christmas there was an oversupply of melons and the markets could not even give them away.
Mark Rackemann, from Rackemann Resources, who runs 222.5ha of mixed farming with brother Darrin, said they put so much into this crop.
“Growing watermelons is intensive, expensive and takes up many man hours,” he said.
“Every weekend as well as Christmas everyone is in the melon patch near Ban Ban Springs.
“All members of our families are down here working – we couldn’t have done it without them.
“They underestimate what they have done.”
It takes three months to prepare the ground by wheel rocking it to remove fine rock, fertilizing and laying the plastic and trickle tape (t-tape) for effective watering.
Plastic is laid and measured and the number of seedlings needed is calculated from the length, with seedlings planted 1.5 metres apart.
The first pick is harvested 10 weeks after planting.
Mr Rackemann said they chose their seedlings carefully as they did not want to introduce a virus into the crop.
“The Northern Territory’s melon industry has been crippled due to the outbreak of a virus,” he said.
“These farms now have a two-year ban imposed on them from growing cucumbers and melons.
“With melons you need a clean soil and no trash in the soil.”
Mr Rackemann said this was why it was okay to rotate melons with peanuts, which also leave nitrogen in the soil.
Melons are planted on three 6ha blocks, which is ideal to be serviced by two underground bores at one time.
The first pick yielded 60 tonnes to the hectare.
Mr Rackemann said his agent rang and told him his melons were the best “bloody melons in the country”.
“Bins with our label, Rackamelons, are first to go,” he said.
“They ticked all the boxes for size, quality, flavour and presentation.
“God this red soil is magic.
“We get terrific advice from the BGA agronomist at Kingaroy.
“So we’ve heeded his advice plus a bit more.
“The end product is the best vine seen in years.
“Darrin has done a brilliant job in looking after them, getting up most mornings at 4.30 to look after the watering.”
He said the underground water monitors could be hooked up to the phone or laptop.
“The BGA boys can watch this also and advise us,” he said.
“As the plants grow they demand more water.”
Mr Rackemann said the market demands they only supply them with seedless melons and the larger the better.
Although the market does not want them, the Rackemanns also grow the Tiger variety, which is sold on their stall fronting the Isis Hwy.
This variety is planted in conjunction with another super pollinator variety to get the bees into the plants.
On Sunday it was the second pick and there is a possibility there could be a third pick.
A week ago the price was only 50-60c but on Sunday it was back up to $1-$1.20 for the very best quality.
Mr Rackemann said the branded melons go to Premier Fruits in Brisbane, but could end up in Melbourne, where previous loads had been taken.
“Out in the paddock we normally have three to four (workers) on the ground picking and putting the melons on the elevator, and three on the trailer packing the bins,” he said.
“Back in the shed, these cardboard bins measuring 810mm and holding 400kg of fruit (something else the market demands) are levelled up so the covers will fit on.”
Mr Rackemann said they usually sent 58 bins at a time by refrigerated truck to market.
Due to the low prices, one of the blocks has been sprayed off with Round-up.
“We’ll now slash just above the ground so we can recover the plastic and water tape before ploughing in the melons as mulch,” he said. “With the other residual fertiliser left over all will be in readiness for the next growing crop.”
Mr Rackemann said at least they are now getting some rain.
“It’s all adding up and we’ve also been able to plant some peanuts and sorghum.”
END PRODUCT: Mark Rackemann, of Rackemann Resources, in the middle of thewatermelon patch near Ban Ban Springs.
Members of the Rackemann family planting the watermelon crop.
The travelling public can buy their own Rackamelon from the roadside stall near Ban Ban Springs.
Levelling off the cardboard bins before heading to market.
The seedlings starting to grow.
The melons roll along an elevator before being put into bins on the trailer.
Due to low prices, this block was sprayed off in readiness to be ploughed in.