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    PRAYING FOR SPRING RAIN: Brett Wheaton checks his planet barley crop at Nhill. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Wet weather turnaround for Wimmera farmers


Farmer confidence in the 2020 cropping season is growing following steady rain across the Wimmera and Mallee, showing promising signs of a wetter than average spring. 

A solid start to cropping in the region saw good crop establishment for many farmers during April and May.

But the Wimmera faced dry conditions in winter months, where Horsham recorded its lowest July rainfall total in more than 20 years at less than 15 millimeters. 

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A reprieve from the dry spell came during August where recorded rain across parts of the Wimmera including at  Horsham, Nhill and Edenhope measured more than 40mm.

Bureau of Meteorology, BoM, outlook is promising more wet weather as chances of a La Niña pattern, associated with wetter weather, developing during spring was increasing.  

For Nhill grain grower Brett Wheaton the rain could not be timelier. 

“We had 10.5mm last week and probably had an inch in the past fortnight, which has been great because I finished spraying the last of my paddocks about a fortnight ago,” Mr Wheaton said. 

“For us now it is a matter of monitoring the crops. We probably won’t put fungicide on unless it gets wetter. 

“At the moment, it’s just a matter of praying for that spring rain.” 

Mr Wheaton said he got an early start to cropping this year, which assisted with crop establishment.  

“Because of having no sport early in the year due to COVID-19, we were finished cropping in May, which is the earliest we’ve ever done it,” he said. 

“As far as crop germination and having a good pre-season moisture profile go – that’s been fantastic.” 

Mr Wheaton said during the dry period in July, his farm recorded just 11mm of rain. 

“The long-term forecast was showing above average rain, but we never got it,” he said.

“However, we’ve been lucky enough to live on small shower events that have maintained our crops.” 

Fighting frost

Rupanyup Farmer Andrew Weidemann welcomed wetter weather, saying it was a ‘big turnaround’ for his grains and pulses.

The bureau’s weather data shows Rupanyup has recorded more than 60mm of rain during August. 

Mr Weidemann said the wet weather was a major relief after a dry, frost-stricken winter across the district.   

“Early sown crops were starting to feel the pinch, but this rain has really boosted our confidence and we’ll hopefully get more in September,” he said. 

“The weather reports by all accounts are looking positive and there’s big change of a La Niña weather pattern on the way.”

Mr Weidemann said his crops were exposed to more than 30 frosts during the winter, hindering growth. 

He said the lowest temperature he recorded was minus-three degrees. 

“The frosts over the past eight weeks prior to the rain had really held back a lot of later-sown crops,” he said.

“Anything sown around May was struggling with the frost and slow growth.

“We had no rain from the start of June. We only had 20mm all up until the most recent rain events and we were frost after frost, so nothing was growing.” 

Mr Weidemann said wetter weather was a promising sign he could pull off some decent crops come harvest time.

“Pulses look good, canola looks good, wheat and barley both look excellent,” he said.

“If we can get a follow up of more than  40 or 50mm over September, I think the Wimmera and a fair chunk of the Mallee will get away with a good season.”

National outlook

National weather forecasters have raised their El Niño-Southern Oscillation Outlook to La Niña alert status, meaning the chance of wetter-than-usual conditions for much of Australia in the coming months.

The BoM outlook shows the chances of a La Niña occurring this year has increased to 70 percent, roughly three times higher than normal.

The last significant La Niña event was in 2010-11, which was Australia’s wettest two-year period on record, surpassing a previous record from La Niña years of 1973-74. Flooding occurred in the Wimmera in 2011.

• For more agriculture news, see AgLife

The entire August 26, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire August 26, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!