From dust storms to floods in just four hours

From dust storms to floods in just four hours


Cropping News
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Victoria is the smallest mainland state, but there is still a wild variance in seasonal conditions from dust storms to waterlogging.

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The wet winter in parts of the Western District is borne out by the table, showing the wettest May 1 - August 20 rainfall on record for Westmere, in the heart of the Western District's grain growing area.

The wet winter in parts of the Western District is borne out by the table, showing the wettest May 1 - August 20 rainfall on record for Westmere, in the heart of the Western District's grain growing area.

IT MAY be the smallest mainland state but in spite of its compact size different parts of Victoria are experiencing vastly different seasonal conditions.

In just an easy four hour drive the landscape changes from a near desert scenario in the Millewa in the far north-west of the state west of Mildura, where dust is blowing every time the wind gets up, to paddocks that will have to be resown due to waterlogging in the northern Western District, around the fertile volcanic plains to the east of Ararat.

Ron Hards, who farms at Werrimull, in the Millewa, said the localised drought in his area could easily be classified as the worst on record.

"It's as bad as it has been in terms of rainfall, Werrimull has received around 60mm for the year and it also comes off a bad year last year."

Mr Hards said while some crops sown in conservation farming systems on the right soil types were still alive other crops are already near dead.

He said it meant wind-generated soil erosion would be an issue throughout the area until sufficient rain to grow biomass to hold paddocks together.

"Paddocks that have been cultivated or those that have been grazed too heavily are the most susceptible."

Mr Hards said while the overall picture for Victoria was relatively rosy this season it was a different story in the very far north-west, influenced by the same weather patterns that have seen NSW's Central West going through a tougher year than last year's horror drought.

"We're looking to meet with government officials and show them what it is like and try and come up with some ideas, but it is a very tough year."

While severe the Millewa drought is relatively localised, with crops immediately to the south, along the Mallee track between Ouyen and Murrayville looking much better.

Also in the western third of the state, but diametrically opposed in terms of autumn and winter weather, is the Ripon region between Ararat and Beaufort.

Agronomist Craig Drum, based in the area, said heavy rain had followed a particular pattern, meaning an area between Maroona and Streatham, through productive grain growing districts such as Westmere and Tatyoon, had suffered extensive waterlogging damage.

"Rainfall data shows that Westmere has actually had its wettest period from May 1 to now (August 20) on record, which is remarkable given the forecast for a dry season and how dry it is elsewhere," Mr drum said.

Mr Drum said traditionally rainfall graded heavier the further south you went through the Western District, but this year he said it was wetter in the north and then to the east of the region through Rokewood and down to the Geelong valleys.

"It is wetter here than in spots such as Lake Bolac and across to Hamilton."

The story From dust storms to floods in just four hours first appeared on Farm Online.

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