Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 13/08/2004, pg. 10

PRIZE-winning Darling Downs wheat grower Roland Teakle surveyed the expanse of dry empty paddocks yesterday where hundreds of hectares of lush winter crop should be emerging.

“Normally we plant 323ha a year of wheat,” said Mr Teakle, of Jondaryan west of Toowoomba.

“This year — not a seed.

“We usually win second prize in the wheat competition at our local show. This year we didn’t get to plant anything.”

The Teakles are the human face of the state’s ongoing drought. Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss warned yesterday that Queensland’s wheat crop would be severely depleted and perhaps the worst yet.

Queensland and the entire east coast have recorded far-below-average rain or the lowest on record in the past three months.

The Teakle family already knows there will be no money for Christmas, and it will be next April before they will be paid for a summer crop, if they can grow one.

“There’s a bit of misery in a drought, but the next crop is usually a pretty good one,” Mr Teakle said.

“It’ll be a lean Christmas, but you’ve got to be positive.”

Despite the big dry, Mr Teakle is hoping there is no rain for the next month because it is too early to plant summer crops, and rain now would only yield a fine crop of weeds on the paddocks he
ploughed and fertilised hoping for a planting rain.

“We’ve got a good drought on the go,” he said.

“A drought has got benefits — it doesn’t grow weeds.

“It saves us a fortune in fuel and we can get on with other maintenance jobs.”

Much of the eastern Darling Downs has had one of the driest winters in memory, with plantings in some of the 15 shires close to nil.

Jondaryan Shire Mayor and grain grower Peter Taylor said the winter crop was disastrous, and many farmers would lose $200,000 to $300,000 in income.

“It’s blown our budgets apart,” Cr Taylor said.

Another Jondaryan wheat grower, Richard Matthews, said this winter had been the driest since 1945 when his family bought the property.

Australian Wheat Board grain marketer Ken Hudson said eastern Downs shires had planted only about a quarter of the usual wheat-cropping areas, but shires further west had planted up to 80 per cent.

Copyright 2004 / Courier Mail