Dry start forums renew hope despite low rainfall

CANOLA UP: Bruce Morgan said the forums provided positive perspective and is happy to see some of his sown canola already up despite the dry start to this year's season.
CANOLA UP: Bruce Morgan said the forums provided positive perspective and is happy to see some of his sown canola already up despite the dry start to this year's season.

Eyre Peninsula farmers waiting for much-needed rain were searching for answers last week at the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) dry start forums. 

In response to the unseasonably dry start to winter, forums were held in Wudinna and Cummins for more than 260 farmers to find out how to make the best of the lack of rain.

The forums provided local seasonal outlooks, yield prediction scenarios, crop growth in dry and cold conditions, heat and frost impacts based on sowing time, and options for livestock.

GRDC panelist and local farmer Bill Long said discussions boosted confidence for many farmers in the room.

Birchip Cropping Group agricultural agronomist Tim McClelland presented crop yield predictions, which cited more positive rainfall projections than earlier thought, with many models saying average to slightly below yearly rain.

“To me that was the big positive that the season outlook, while it's not great, it isn't as grim as it was a month ago,” Mr Long said.

While many were doubtful of their prospects this season, the forums created a renewed focus on working to the strengths of each farm operation.

Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association chairperson and Coulta farmer Bruce Morgan said something he took out of the forums was chemicals that farmers had already applied would still work when it rained because they would still be viable and active.

“It's confirmed that what we're doing is probably about right but I guess everyone's in a different situation.”

He said there was concern about how long seed had been in the ground and whether it was still going to grow, however Mr Morgan was hopeful as most of his canola was already up.

“We've got canola growing and it's up but we probably won't plant the last 150 hectares of it,” he said. 

The forums left everyone in the room with the question: “What will you do differently as a result of today?”

Both Mr Morgan and Mr Long have planted an estimated 70 per cent of their crops and said they would not be planting any more canola as initially planned and would look to alternative crops.

“Depending on when it rains, we'll make the decision on what we plant, so some barley or the earliest maturing wheat we can get and drop canola out,” Mr Morgan said.

“I'll go into leaning towards planting some barley,” Mr Long said.

“A lot of people are really pleased they've got livestock in the system...and are looking at that as a profit centre,” Mr Long said.

Some good news on the radar suggests up to 8 millimetres of rain is forecast for this weekend.