Farm­ers talk ir­ri­ga­tion needs in the long dry:

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Jack Lawrie jack.lawrie@cnbtimes.com.au

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.

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