Rains bring modest relief to drought-hit eastern crops

Neil Lyon October 8, 2018


PATCHY rains in the past week over the drought-affected winter cropping regions of central and north west New South Wales and southern Queensland have largely come too late to benefit the meagre acreages of struggling crops.

But, in the few areas where falls have been substantial, the rain has improved prospects for summer crop planting and will be of some benefit to those winter crops that were sown on fallow moisture.

The heaviest falls of over 50 millimetres were recorded in isolated parts of central west NSW and Queensland’s Darling Downs, but those falls were generally in isolated patches and the rain gauges were barely troubled in many areas that recorded less than 10mm.

Among the totals recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology in central and north west NSW for the past week, Dubbo received 63mm, Forbes 32mm, Condobolin 20mm, Trangie 34mm, Hillston 22mm, Walgett 22mm, Collarenebri 20mm and Moree 21mm.

Across the border in Queensland, Dalby had a total of 37mm, Macalister 15mm and Roma 13mm. There was no rain of consequence in Central Queensland.

Central west NSW

IMAG Consulting Dubbo-based agronomist, Matt Shephard, said while some areas received upwards of 30mm, the rain was very patchy.

“The rain has been useful, but primarily too late. It helped any crops that were grown on chickpea stubble or long fallow that may have had yield potential of 0.5 to 1.0 tonnes/hectare will now fill that yield potential. But that is probably it,” he said.

Mr Shephard said he oversaw about 48,000 hectares that had been planted to winter crop this year but would be lucky to harvest 2000 to 4000ha of that

“A lot will be just harvested for seed. There won’t be a lot of surplus grain above seed in a lot of areas,” he said.

Mr Shephard said the rain would be helpful for summer crop planting, particularly in areas where there had been good falls, such as to the west of Warren where there were reports of some falls of 50-60mm.

“They are well into cotton planting. It is patchy. Some are planting on moisture and will likely get the crop established on rainfed moisture where there has been 30mm or more,” he said.

“But, for others who have only had 10 to 15mm of rain, it is bit of a headache because it means the crop needs to be planted then irrigated closely behind to make sure there is full emergence.”

Mr Shephard said while forecast pointed to unsettled weather in the next week to 10 days, it was difficult to know how much rain would eventuate.

“Forecasts have been all over the place for most of the winter. We are in a neutral ENSO pattern – we are not El Nino, not La Nina – which indicates a greater likelihood of average rainfall. But, it has been very dry even by El Nino standards. With the reliability of the forecasts we have had in the last six months it would be too hard to predict,” he said.

“Where you get patchy rain like we had last week, at least it is something that changes the season. We are moving into summer-type patterns which, hopefully, will see more people get under some of those storms and pick up some much-needed rain.”

North west NSW

In north west NSW, Poole Ag Consulting agronomist, Tim Poole, Moree, said the rain wasn’t substantial in the area and wouldn’t have much impact.

“There is only a small area of crop in and some has already been taken out or grazed off. There are crops around that will make it to harvest. In other years they may not have, but given the high prices people might persist with some modest crops,” he said.

“There was quite a bit of sorghum planted in the first half of September. Establishment was variable, so the rain might help in some places but probably not enough to secure the stands.”

Southern Queensland

Jordan McDonald

On Queensland’s Darling Downs, Elders agronomist, Jordan McDonald, Dalby, said there had been falls of 10 to 60 millimetres in the past five days on top of what had been an extremely dry season.

“Most of the area had no winter crop in. The crops that were in were looking dire. This rain will help those who have some crop in,” he said.

“It will also help out some summer crop planting. I’d say 90 per cent still won’t be able to plant on this. Some clients who say they are more desperate to get some in compared to previously will plant on marginal moisture.”


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