Green oasis on dusty plain promises farmer fruity return
COMING off the back of a "fair" avocado season, Kabra grower Tim Keogh is now preparing his mango trees for picking in a couple of months time.
Amid dry conditions and low rainfall, Mr Keogh thinks this mango season will be okay but it is next year's that has him the most concerned.
The avocado season ended about six to eight weeks ago and Mr Keogh, who operates MMM Mangoes and Avocados, said it was a fair season with a fair crop.
"Prices were still fair, there was a bit of a glut in the middle but that always happens and that is going to continue to happen when more and more fruit come online," he said.
Most of the avocados went to the capital cities, wherever was paying the best money. A large chunk of the fruit went to Adelaide this year.
"The further you get away from the growing area, the higher the price but you also have the problems of freight,"
"It is a matter of juggling that and working it out."
On the 33 hectare property, Mr Keogh has around 750 avocado trees.
Last year he planted 250 trees and most of the trees are the Hass variety.
MMM Mangoes and Avocados
- 106 McEvoy Road (Kabra road), Kabra
- 750 mature and 250 new avocado trees, mostly Hass variety
- 4, 500 mango trees, mostly Kensington Pride and some R2E2
- Follow them on Facebook
"They grow really well and we think they are a good variety," he said.
Not a crop you just plant and pick six weeks later, some of the trees on the Kabra property are 20 years old.
"We try to get our crop off in a reasonable time so the tree can have a bit of a break, so we can prune and it pushes out another flower again," Mr Keogh said.
Around August the tree starts to flower and at the moment, the buds are about the size of a pea.
The mango trees are nowhere near as active, and have about three to four months of dormancy. Preparing for picking in early December just two months away, buds on the trees are just now starting to flower.
With some dry conditions, Mr Keogh isn't expecting this year to be as good as last year.
"We're looking down the barrel of an average crop," he said.
"But anything can happen between now and picking time, there is a million different things that can go wrong."
The 2017 crop was an absolute "thumper" season with a massive crop.
"Prices were very tough around that December when we pick because there was such an oversupply," Mr Keogh said.
"We came out of that with just about no rain in January and only a small amount in February."
The exceptional crop was due to some good rain around this time last year coming into the growing season. But when it comes to the wet season, around January and February earlier this year for the current crop - there wasn't one.
"We really struggled this wet season just gone, we're just not getting those really good drenching of rain," he said.
The Keoghs are doing a lot of watering on the trees at the moment. While it is normally a dry time at this time of year, they are doing a bit more watering than usual.
"I don't know how far we are behind our average rainfall but we must be a mile behind," he said.
"We use a great deal of water, we will always have enough water to water the garden and the house but when you are talking 4,500 thousand trees, it takes an extraordinary amount of water to keep up."
Mr Keogh said he feels confident there is enough to water to see out the crop this year. But it's next year's wet season that is worrying.
Rain in January and February next year is what sets up the crop for the next 12 months and predictions aren't looking friendly for that.
The dry conditions is also affecting the mulch used for ground cover on the trees.
Down the back paddocks, grass is grown to put around the bottom of trees but without much rain, not much grass is grown.
"There is less mulch, less protection on the trees, in turn you use more water because you haven't got the mulch on the trees," Mr Keogh said.