Rain saves dry­land crops

Southern Riverina news - - News -

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.

John Fowler.

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