Broadacre farmers await break

By Rodney Woods

Cropping farmers are in a state of uncertainty as a lack of rain puts the pressure on as the sowing season begins.

Rainfall has been nearly non-existent to start the year and farmers are worried about how far away the next major downpour might be.

‘‘They (crops) all want rain at this time of year given how dry the soil is,’’ Pine Lodge cropping farmer David Cook said.

‘‘Everyone is looking for reasonable rainfall to get it started.’’

Agriculture Victoria seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey said unlike daily temperatures, which were up 4°C on the April long-term average, there was nothing statistically unusual about the dry spell.

‘‘The fact that the break hasn’t come (yet) is not abnormal around Shepparton,’’ he said.

‘‘The break is usually around the start to the middle of May. People might like it to rain on Anzac Day, but historically that’s not the case.’’

Mr Grey said the sooner the rains arrived the better for the region’s farmers, as the dry spell had impacted some industries.

‘‘Agronomically, if it rains earlier, everything is better ... the irrigators in dairy have had to put a lot more water on than they would have liked to.

‘‘They’ve probably all been scrambling to buy enough water to keep them going.

‘‘Recent rain may provide enough to germinate but not enough to get seeds out of the ground.’’

Despite the Shepparton area receiving 8.6mm across May 3 and 4, Cosgrove farmer Allan Shields said more was needed to make a difference.

‘‘It’s just dry. I started sowing a month ago and nothing’s come up,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s no moisture at all.

‘‘If we get an inch of rain (25mm), it would change overnight.’’

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr Blair Trewin said April had been the driest month for Victoria as a whole since 1997.

‘‘That was fairly consistent across the board in northern Victoria. Shepparton came in with less than 7mm.

‘‘It wasn’t their driest April on record, but it was certainly dry,’’ Dr Trewin said.

‘‘Shepparton also experienced its warmest April on record.’’

Despite this dry spell, rain may well be on its way with the bureau forecasting a wetter than average May to July for eastern Victoria.

Other centres that recorded rain across the same period as Shepparton included:

■Benalla (14.4mm);

■Yarrawonga (10.6mm);

■Mangalore (18.8mm); and

■Kyabram (9.6mm).

—with Myles Peterson