Australia: Open field crops suffer under significant disease pressure

Watermelons in the Bundaberg region of south-east Queensland are suffering the worst pest and disease problem ever witnessed by many farmers. Nearby tomato crops have also been set back by significant disease pressure. Keith Martens is more than halfway through harvesting his 180 acres of melons, and says it's too early to tell what damage pests have done to his ideal 3,000-tonne crop. He says the warm winter and spring have created a hellish climate in the fields. "We've seen an increase in whitefly numbers, we've seen all our winds during the end of September and early October, so realistically, it has knocked our yield around."

Crop losses have actually been paving the way for good prices, because it could lead to higher demand. But Neville Beeston, from fruit and vegetable wholesaler Bee Mart, says the market is now at its lowest point. He says cool weather in southern markets has killed the trade. "Wet and cold - consumption drops in that sort of weather," he said. "It comes right down to a point now where chain stores are retailing at 90 cents per kilo... the return to the grower is getting below cost."


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