GONE: Hail stripped the leaves off trees on this road near watermelon farmer Tom Brett's property.
GONE: Hail stripped the leaves off trees on this road near watermelon farmer Tom Brett's property. Brooke Duncan

Melon farmers cop a thrashing from vicious storm

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FARMERS across the Western Downs are picking up the pieces after an intense hailstorm ripped through the region on Thursday.

Hail ranging from grape to golfball-sized pummelled properties, taking some producers back at square one.

North of Chinchilla, watermelon grower Terry O'Leary had only one row left to plant before his crop was entirely wiped out by Thursday's ferocious storm, while neighbouring grower Tom Brett also suffered damage.

"The storm came through and they'd been predicting it, and we just happened to be in the path and there was a small patch of heavy hail that happened to run across our property," Mr Brett said.

Some of Chinchilla melon farmer Tom Brett's crops were damaged in the recent hailstorm.
Some of Chinchilla melon farmer Tom Brett's crops were damaged in the recent hailstorm. Contributed

The hail hit a particular paddock, which Mr Brett said was becoming somewhat unlucky.

"We have a (three-year) rotation and the last three times we've been in this paddock we've now had hail," he said.

Thursday's hailstorm will set Mr Brett's crops back a couple of weeks - providing he doesn't get too much more rain.

"They're grafted melons so most of the damage is above the graft, so it should re-shoot, as long as we don't get too much rain, we need more sunshine than rain," he said.

"A thing that we'll have to manage, we've got a crop load of seedlings in the shed that turned up yesterday, and so they've got to be planted this next week.

"These two crops now more or less turn into one, so managing that when we're picking the fruit will be a challenge. At the moment we'll just focus on this crop, heavily managing disease and nutrition and hoping for a bit of sunshine."

While the watermelons can be salvaged, it's not the case for Mr Brett's cover crops in the melon rotation.

"It was oats and tillage radish crops and it's been buggered," he said.

"It's stripped a lot of our pasture back for the cattle as well so, we had a lot of dry Rhodes grass up there and it's all stripped and flattened out, but we'll recover."


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