RAIN WAIT CONTINUES
Farmers talk irrigation needs in the long dry:
FARMERS in the Monto area are continuing to push irrigation systems to the brink in response to dry weather.
With the planting window come and gone, the only rain has offered light, scattered reprieve at best.
Farmer Russ Salisbury said it was tough going for summer planters.
“Summer crop are struggling at the moment out here because of the dry,” Mr Salisbury said.
Experienced farmer Brad Forsyth, running mungbean, corn and lucerne, said many farmers were taking it day by day waiting for the rain.
“We’re not too hopeful at the moment, but anything would be welcome because it could change the atmosphere,” Mr Forsyth said.
Lucerne is Mr Forsyth’s primary area of business and this year’s crop has been quite demanding.
“Just at the moment it’s a struggle to keep it up because we’re getting cloudy weather like this, so you delay your cutting because you think you might get some rain,” he said.
“You stop the irrigation to let it grow out a bit to cut, but when it’s ready to cut it’s ready to cut and next thing you’re waiting a week for a little shower.”
Lucerne only takes four weeks to grow, so delays can get you behind fast.
Mr Forsyth said most farmers had simply stopped watering their lucerne.
He put his corn and mungbean crop in early January to get a head start on cropping.
“That was probably the best time. I couldn’t go any longer or we’d be breaking the plants off going over with the machines,” Mr Forsyth said.
“We only got 20mm at the time – just enough moisture to get them in.”
“Since then we’ve had nothing of any major consequence, only six and nine millimetres since we planted.”
Corn is one of the most demanding crop to water, requiring constant irrigation.
As a long crop, even those who planted early such as Mr Forsyth likely won’t be harvesting until July.
Monto farmer Fred Jarvis, who also planted a crop of corn, said his needed eight megalitres per hectare, twice a week.
“It’s growing okay but with very little rain it’s fully irrigated, so the water’s expensive,” Mr Jarvis said.
“The irrigation is constant until we get a break with the rain.
“The seed’s very expensive as well.”
Mr Forsyth had some unexpected good luck with his corn crop that may keep him from going into the red.
An error with the initial planting led to a smaller establishment of corn, which has meant he hasn’t had to water as much as was originally allocated for.
“What we were aiming at was going to need 800–900mm of water. What we’ve got now only needs 600mm,” Mr Forsyth said.
“As we’re going on into the colder months, the crop requirements will be getting higher, but we also won’t be battling evaporation from those 40-degree temperatures.”
Mungbean may be a safer choice for farmers planting in dry, as it has a reputation for being a hardier crop.
But it does require regular insect spraying and acceptable topsoil moisture to plant.
Supply-demand needs have led to a potential boom in the market for this year.
Mr Forsyth’s mungbean crop is kept well-watered, giving it potential for a good yield.
“It probably won’t be as high a return as lucerne, but we can’t grow those sorts of areas in lucerne because of the water requirements,” he explained.
Mr Forsyth said he was looking at potentially growing twice the area of mungbean crop with the same amount of water used on lucerne.
WAITING FOR RAIN: Brad Forsyth stands with his corn crop under 24/7 irrigation.
HARDY CROP: Brad Forsyth surveys some dampened mungbean crop.
Mungbean could yield upwards of 1.3kg per tonne.
The grey sky has not yielded much rainfall.
This circle rotator needs to be shifted twice a day.
Brad Forsyth's primary area is lucerne, but he’s been branching out.