Of course this has nothing tdo do with climate change – lol. It's just fickle nature – and good times are just round the corner!
Australia:Key grain regions days away from failing as season dries up
24 September, 2014
PARTS of southeast Australia’s prime grain growing regions are just days away from failing, despite one of the best starts to the season in decades.
As warmer-than-average weather saps the potential of crops in parts of the Victorian Mallee and Wimmera, farmers are pinning their hopes on forecast rain this week to help salvage ever-diminishing yields, which experts say are dropping at more than 100kg/ha a day.
While crops in other parts of the state fare better, farmers in northwest Victoria fear this week’s rain could be too little, too late to save some crops, many of which are dying or being cut for hay.
There are reports that some self-germinating crops are already being harvested around Ouyen and Annuello — weeks ahead of schedule.
The dry is also forcing an early sell-off of stock, with 55,000 sheep yarded at Hay in the NSW Riverina last week and a big offering at Wycheproof this Friday.
The Bureau of Meteorology said parts of the Mallee and Wimmera could receive 5-10mm of rain this week followed by forecast temperatures nudging 30C early next week.
Mildura topped at 27C on Monday — almost 8C above average for this time of year — and has not had rain for more than three weeks.
Birchip Cropping Group chief executive Chris Sounness said most of the Mallee and Wimmera was “really looking for a drink” while “this next week could sort the men from the boys”.
“For the southern Mallee now, even a good drink will be too late for most of the crops,” Mr Sounness said. “If you drive from Hopetoun, Birchip to Wycheproof (it’s) as tough as it gets.
“There are a lot of crops along that road that are already harvestable and don’t have enough bulk to even cut for hay.”
Victorian Farmers Federation grains president and Quambatook farmer Brett Hosking described the season as “finished” in some parts of the Mallee.
“There are good and bad paddocks, ” Mr Hosking said.
“Some have been blessed with earlier thunderstorms and that has carried them through. Others have missed out completely and they’re really doing it very tough at the moment.”
Mr Hosking said growers were optimistic after good autumn rain “and spent more than they would have had they known this was the way the season was going to finish”.
SQP Grain Mallee grain merchant Brad Cullen said parts of the northern Mallee were faring the best “but still tracking at this stage for below-average yields”.
“We can’t (afford to) lose 100kg/ha a day out of the Mallee — that’s a fair proportion of the crop,” he said.
“Rain this week will still have a positive effect, particularly for wheat.
“The cut-off (for rain) is somewhere around the second week of October. If we can score a bit out of this, it will be very, very good.”
A lack of rain over winter and early spring has been blamed for the poor performance of the crops.
Grain grower Peter Taylor, at Lubeck, south of Murtoa, said his region had not had any rain for seven weeks.
“After a really good start it then didn’t rain … now we are on a knife edge,” Mr Taylor said.
“We have just run out of moisture. We’ve got about a week (of life left in crops).”
Elders Wycheproof livestock agent Kevin Thompson said his district had not had a rain of more than 4-5mm since June. “Even the good areas need a rain,” Mr Thompson said.
“The southern Mallee pocket between Warracknabeal and Boort, up through the Mallee and back towards Wedderburn is tinder dry.
“There is no spring at all, and if they got a rain now it would help, but it’s nearly getting past being effective in helping crop production.”
Rob Shea, who runs the Perennial Pasture Systems farmers group, said the season around Ararat, Stawell and St Arnaud was “right on the edge” but “if we do get a rain, it will be OK”.
While the northwest of the state struggles, other cropping regions are enjoying an above-average season.
“Gippsland is in as good a position at the end of September than it has been for quite a few years,” Bairnsdale farmer Trevor Caithness said.
“It is looking very positive.”
In the North East, Department of Environment and Primary Industries agronomist Dale Grey said crops were looking “pretty good”.
“If we get this rain over the next couple of days, it will help us see out the few warmer days we are also getting without too much damage,” Mr Grey said.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Terry Ryan said rain yesterday and today could deliver up to 20mm in parts of the North East with light showers on Thursday and Friday forecast mostly in the south.