Crop one of the best yet

Central and North Burnett Times - - THE FENCE POST - Erica Murree

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.

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