Blenheim farmer Greg Lerch looks over the damage the floods caused to his property.
Blenheim farmer Greg Lerch looks over the damage the floods caused to his property. David Nielsen

Farmer's topsoil washed away

IT WASN’T that long ago that Lockyer Valley Beetroot farmer Greg Lerch was running out of water.

Having his production reduced to less than half – at the beginning of 2007 – because his bores were drying up, there is a cruel irony in the fact that his bores, dams and the neighbouring creek are now all abundant with water.

Mr Lerch lost between 10 and 20 per cent of his beetroot-growing topsoil in the recent floods, which devastated a large part of the Lockyer Valley.

Sandy Creek, a tributary of Lockyer Creek which meanders along next to his fields, swelled up and consumed a large section of his farm at Blenheim, just outside Forest Hill in a vast, flat area between Gatton and Laidley.

“I had the soil all ready to grow beetroots – Golden Circle likes us to be ready to go around the end of February or early March,” he said. “The water has taken away about 12 inches of the topsoil.”

What’s left behind is somewhere between 10 and 20 acres of hardened, cracked-up mud, which will probably take tens of thousands of dollars to work back into something fertile enough to grow vegetables.

With what could be a very wet February ahead, Mr Lerch said he was still not sure of what to do with corners of his fields which had been left in a boggy, lumpy mess.

“The drought taught us all how to get on without water – we learned how to remain productive over the years,” Mr Lerch said.

“I think I would have preferred the drought to this.”

Member for Blair Shayne Neumann, who has been travelling around the Brisbane and Lockyer valleys talking to farmers, said the level of devastation was enormous.

Farmers like Mr Lerch will take advantage of a $25,000 Federal Government grant, offered specifically to help cover the cost of getting heavy machinery in to clean up the mess.

“In many individual cases we’re talking about losses totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars here,” Mr Neumann said.

“At least this grant will help them get to a position where they can plant a crop and start earning money again.” Farmers are also eligible for loans of up to $250,000.

Mr Neumann said he was talking to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan about further assistance for farmers.



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