Grower back from mosaic virus brink
Anthony Caleo, 29, suffered horrific burns following an explosion at the family farm at Sellheim in February last year.
It was touch and go, but Anthony was back to see the first crop go out yesterday.
“I am not 100 per cent yet but I am getting there,” he said.
“It is good to be back on the farm. Every time I have to go back to Brisbane ( for surgery) the doctors say I look good ... and I think being back home is the reason for that.
“It has been a hassle to get here but it is a good lift for us to be making some money again.”
The Caleo farm was quarantined after the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus was detected on the property in April. The virus, an exotic disease, was first detected in the Northern Territory last year and affects cucurbit species such as cucumber, melons, watermelon, bitter- gourd, bottle gourd, zucchini, pumpkin and squash.
Mr Caleo’s watermelon crop tested positive for the virus but his pumpkins have so far been clear of any disease.
He said he had no idea when the quarantine order would be lifted but he hoped to be planting on unaffected land by January.
“They ( biosecurity experts) haven’t worked out a way to test the dirt yet but farmers in the Northern Territory have been allowed to farm in areas without the virus so that’s what we are hoping to do,” he said.
“After all, we only had about 20ha of affected watermelons on a 200ha farm.
“Ironically, if someone else owned that 180ha ( of unaffected land) they could plant but
It is a good lift for us to be making some money again
because I own farm, we can’t.”
Mr Caleo, who is on the board of the Australian Melon Association, hopes to plant pineapples soon but estimates he has lost about $ 1 million as a result of the outbreak.
Biosecurity Queensland chief plant health manager Mike Ashton said the agency had conducted surveillance for the virus on a number of commercial cucurbit- growing properties in Queensland.
He said there had been no other detections so far.
“This provides Biosecurity Queensland with increased confidence that it is dealing with an isolated case in Queensland,” he said.
PSYCHOLOGICAL LIFT: Jon Caleo and ( inset) rotting melons infected with mosaic virus.