Rainfall deficiency means new drought

RAINFALL DEFICIENCIES: The Eyre Peninsula is experiencing all levels of serious, severe and lowest of record rainfall deficiencies. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology.

RAINFALL DEFICIENCIES: The Eyre Peninsula is experiencing all levels of serious, severe and lowest of record rainfall deficiencies. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology.

Parts of the Eyre Peninsula have received the lowest rainfall on record for the five-month period of March to July this year.

A monthly drought statement, by the Bureau of Meteorology released last week, showed the Eyre Peninsula was one of two major regions in Australia hit hardest with a lack of rainfall and below average soil moisture.

Bureau climatologist Lynette Bettio said the Eyre Peninsula was experiencing what was referred to as a “meteorological drought” or “hydrological drought”.

“It's based on a deficiency or lack of rainfall compared to what is usually received for the period.”

She said the Eyre Peninsula was one of the regions on the bureau’s rainfall deficiency statement.

After an exceptionally dry June across Australia (the second-driest June on record for the country as a whole) and below average July rainfall, the first half of the southern wet season (April to November) has been very dry over large parts of eastern and southwestern Australia. 

According to bureau data for Port Lincoln, the average rainfall for the March 1 to July 31 period is 267.5 millimetres, however in 2017 Port Lincoln only received 106.2mm – less than half the average. 

Cummins agronomist Mick Broad said farmers were already prepared for the rain deficiency.

He said farmers had already made plans to have “less bulk” in their crops this year, for the soil to be able to handle less rainfall. 

“We’re not going to grow a lot of bulk this year – on the Lower Eyre Peninsula we can – but we're not actually wasting a lot of moisture at the minute because there's not much to suck it out.”

He said a big reason for this was farmers not spreading as much nitrogen as a risk management strategy for potential lower yields and lower protein.

Mr Broad said the region needed high spring rainfall and low temperatures in the coming months.

“If we get above average temperatures and low rainfall we are probably going to have a drought,” Mr Broad said.

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