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Harvest delayed by rain

RAIN: Farmer Mark Modra has battled to keep his crops thriving as rain pushes back harvest. Photo: Supplied

RAIN: Farmer Mark Modra has battled to keep his crops thriving as rain pushes back harvest. Photo: Supplied

Farmers across the peninsula have had to sweat through an extended wet season, causing concerns for efficient harvesting and potential financial losses.

Mark Modra, who farms canola, wheat, barley, lupins and legumes in eastern and lower Eyre Peninsula said his sites on the lower end had been the worst affected.

"It was a really difficult year for us. Canola and lupins do not like 'wet feet' so it was difficult to keep those crops going," he said.

"For us down the bottom end, it's delayed harvest."

Cummins agronomist Denis Pedler said farmers were waiting on warmer weather to dry crops out as the spring rainfall was "not normal, but we do have them every decade or so".

He expects the recent moisture to disappear this week followed by a normal summer, but the potential for loss of income is still high out in the paddocks.

"When farmers deliver grain that has been wet for too long, they have to put it through a test that checks the falling numbers on that grain, and if it's too wet, it damages the sample and will drop the pay grade farmers will receive from that crop."

Fortunately, there have yet to be reports of crops sprouting in the area, but crops that do sprout are usually downgraded and can cause farmers to lose up to $70 a tonne, or up to a third of the crop's value.

"It's more frustration than economic loss at this stage, but the longer it stays cool and wet, the more loss that will occur," Mr Modra said.

The longer it stays cool and wet, the more loss that will occur

Mark Modra

Economic losses are still a potential issue - if crops are lost, farmers have less money to spend in communities.

"Ultimately, the less grain that's around, it pushes prices up and then the consumers feel that," he said.

"I say 'I'd love to have a new ute or tractor', but because I don't have that money so I don't spend it, so the flow-on effects of that do affect the community."

This year's erratic weather patterns made growing crops difficult - July's wet winter was counteracted by a very dry September, causing some crops to perish within a six week period.

Returning to November's wet patch, Port Lincoln received 33.8mm, almost 15mm above average, while Cleve received 52mm, almost 25mm above average.

"Sometimes we get dry finishes, sometimes we get wet finishes, we've had them before, we'll have them again," Mr Modra said.

The Bureau of Meteorology last week declared a La Nina has developed in the Pacific Ocean, meaning cooler and wetter average temperatures across the country.

The Bureau's head of operational climate services Dr Andrew Watkins said we experienced La Nina during the spring and summer of 2020-21 and this may be weaker.

"Back-to-back La Nina events are not unusual, with around half of all past events returning for a second year.

"Every La Nina has different impacts, as it is not the only climate driver to affect Australia at any one time."

La Nina is likely to persist until the end of January 2022.