Rain saves dryland crops
Dryland crops have been saved by this week’s rain, according to NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) district agronomist John Fowler.
Mr Fowler believes thousands of hectares of dryland canola have already been lost, but winter cereal crops such as wheat and barley now stand a fighting chance.
‘‘It (the rain) is much later than desirable but it’s really saved a lot of winter crops,’’ Mr Fowler said.
‘‘They’ve got low yield potential, but without this rain I don’t think they would have had any yield potential.
‘‘I think it’s actually good for irrigated crops too.
‘‘Most of the crops were stressing and we don’t like flood irrigating in July.
‘‘This will tide them over until the irrigation season.’’
Mr Fowler said the effect of failed crops could have been ‘‘quite severe’’.
‘‘Businesses are pretty fragile after coming out of the drought,’’ he said.
‘‘They (farmers) have spent money getting this crop into the ground. All that money would have been wasted and there basically would have been no income . . . just debt.’’
While subsoil moisture from the March deluge is still present, Mr Fowler said it is 20cm to 30cm below the surface, and with no significant rain since March the upper soil was dry.
‘‘Roots won’t grow through dry soil,’’ he said.
‘‘We need this sort of rain event to wet the soil up.’’
Mr Fowler said the late rain will mean crops finish in hotter, drier weather.
The ideal time for rain would have been late April or May, he added.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, 38.4mm of rain has fallen in Finley since Tuesday last week. Tocumwal recorded 36mm, while Blighty had more than 20mm from Tuesday and Wednesday last week alone.
Mayrung farmer Gordon Ball has both irrigated and dryland crops on his property ‘Melbergen’, and said he noticed an ‘‘almost immediate response’’ after the rain.
‘‘It’s extremely beneficial,’’ he said.
‘‘It saves me having to make up my mind about having to water early.’’
Blighty farmer Joe Weir said crops are ‘‘jumping out of their skins’’.
‘‘It’s amazing how they [had] perked up when I drove around [Wednesday] afternoon,’’ he said.
‘‘They were going backwards [before the rain].’’
Mr Weir has a combination of dryland and irrigated lucerne and oats on his property ‘Bimbella’, and also noticed changes in his neighbour’s dryland wheat.