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Kangaroos destroy $200,000 worth of cucumbers

KANGAROOS ate $200,000 worth of Carl Walker's cucumbers this season, but the Bowen grower said he doesn't blame them.  

"If I was a kangaroo and I was starving and saw a nice patch of cucumber, I probably would have eaten it too," he said.  

"They're just hungry, just trying to survive."   It's not just wildlife struggling in the dry conditions: Mr Walker said drought coupled with economic downturn had made conditions rough for growing and selling capsicums this season, but he's not letting it get him down.   

True to the pioneering spirit that's come to define the Bowen agricultural sector, he sees a world of potential at his fingertips.   

"The best time to build a dam is during a drought. At times like this, people want a hand up, not a hand out," Mr Walker said.  

"Water infrastructure would minimize a future drought, and right now, there's contractors suffering from no work."  

The dam would be the Urannah Dam, proposed west of Calen and with the potential to provide water right up to Bowen and Collinsville and west to Moranbah.   

Despite the push, Bowen growers are already some of the most water efficient in the country.   

Mr Walker said they are using half as much water now as they were 30 years ago.  

"The Bowen region is really the pioneers of trickle irrigation," he said.  

"We grow here in winter what other regions grow in summer.  

"The trickle irrigation also reduces water loss through evaporation and reduces run off to the catchment, you just give the plant exactly what it needs."  

Coupled with a more efficient method of fertilizing, again where the plant is only given what's needed, the method has made the farm much more environmentally friendly.   

It's the flow-on benefits from the Urannah Dam where the agricultural sector is set to benefit most.   

 "It would secure water for the urban areas and industry," he said.  

"Abbot Point, that needs a water guarantee. 

 "(And if agricultural products could also be exported from Abbot Point) it would help us grow our exports and we could become the food bowl for Asia.  

"Urannah Dam and Abbot Point will both be a good thing for the north."  

Talks of a processing plant, to dry, can or powder lower grade produce would also tie into this vision of becoming "Asia's food bowl".  

As well as giving growers an income stream from produce that may have been passed over otherwise, it would also lend itself to export as biosecurity risks would be eradicated.  

"I'm really pushing for powdering and semi-drying," Mr Walker said.  

"If you look at the cost of shipping tins half full of water halfway across the world, it's just not economical."  

He even suggested processed food could one day become part of our foreign aid commitment.   

"Instead of just sending taxpayer dollars, sending that commitment through food would lead to jobs, employment and growth of the region," Mr Walker said.  

If a Whitsunday Regional Council plan to make the Whitsunday Airport international takes hold, export opportunities could lie in the sky one day too.  

"There's potential there. We need government and airlines to help to it into gear," he said.  

More stories at Rural Weekly.

Topics:  bowen crops editors picks farming kangaroos rural rural weekly


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