Season receives mid-winter boost

06 Aug, 2015 02:00 AM
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Stockport farmer Mark Branson said he was
Stockport farmer Mark Branson said he was "extremely happy" with 40mm of rainfall on the weekend. "We had quite a dry June, like everyone else," he said. "Since then we had bits of rain that were keeping up with the crop. "The last fall of rain has helped the water go down deep."

TIMELY July rainfall, although patchy, has revived hopes for the cropping season.

Platinum Ag Services Murraylands manager Steve Hein said the grim situation a fortnight ago had been "turned on its head" in some parts of SA.

The season has been mixed, with some parts of the state recording above-average rainfall at the start.

Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Darren Ray said it was a "wetter than average" April and May in some areas. On the other side of the spectrum, several country towns recorded their lowest June falls in decades.

But predictions of an early onset El Nino influence brought back memories of the 2014 season, which started on a strong note before cutting off from August onwards.

Mr Hein said the dry, combined with wind and frosts, had painted a worrisome picture but falls at the end of July and the first weekend of August brought some cheer.

"Most areas (in the Murraylands) got 15 millimetres of rain," he said.

"That's on top of 15-20mm midway through June. This is a lifesaver."

He said most farms lacked subsoil moisture although top soil received adequate nourishment from the rains.

"The past two rain events have put a smile on faces," Mr Hein said.

He said rainfall had been "very hit and miss", with regions south of Tailem Bend missing out on recent falls. Parts of the area had also been hit by frosts.

"It has been very isolated but where it has hit it will be significant," Mr Hein said.

"Some areas are still a bit brown and haven't recovered."

He said talk of El Nino had been on everybody's mind as the season progressed and reflected on the decision of farmers who chose to lower early inputs.

"Top dressing was definitely minimal," Mr Hein said.

"Even herbicide selection in general was at the lower end of the scale."

International climate models used by the Bureau of Meteorology indicate El Nino is likely to strengthen and persist into early 2016.

The worst impact is expected to fall on eastern states while WA is likely to be influenced by the Indian Ocean with wetter weather.

El Nino is usually associated with below-average winter-spring rainfall over eastern Australia and above-average daytime temperatures in the southern half of the country.

Pallamana farmer Darren Kubenk said things were looking better than at this time last year.

"We're probably sitting quite good at the moment," he said.

"June was a bit dry but July certainly made up for it.

"It's looking quite reasonable, provided we get rain at the end of August, start of September."

Mr Kubenk said one thing at the back of many farmers' minds was the way the season shut off suddenly from August last year.

"It has people worried," he said.

"But the last rain probably made it a bit more positive."

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    Elizabeth Anderson

    Elizabeth Anderson

    is Stock Journal's magazine editor

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