Doubts over water for fodder program

By Geoff Adams

Dry conditions may have torpedoed the program which allowed fodder growers in the southern basin to buy extra water out of South Australia's entitlements from the Murray River.

A new report has found that South Australia does not have sufficient water security based on the current low water availability in the Mount Lofty Ranges and Murray-Darling Basin to permit round two of the Water for Fodder program.

Irrigators, like Gino D'Augello at Kyabram, were able to buy subsidised water at $100/Ml to grow fodder crops.

Mr D'Augello successfully grew 300 wet tonnes of sorghum crop on about 9 ha planted in January.

Initially he was frustrated by the time it took to get his application approved, but when he got the water the crop grew well over his head.

He applied natural compost to the ground at the rate of five tonne to the hectare, before sowing.

“From my perspective, the program created a fodder crop which would not have otherwise eventuated,” Mr D'Augello said.

“I wouldn't have grown it, with the price of water at the time.”

He had the crop chopped for silage.

"There's now 300 tonnes under a blanket ready for cattle.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Keith Pitt said the water supply situation for South Australia would develop over the water year.

“It will not be until after winter and spring inflows, that actual water availability for the 2020-21 water year begin to emerge,” Mr Pitt said.

“At this point, South Australia will have a better understanding of its ability to deliver upon round two of the Water for Fodder program,” Mr Pitt said.

The new report, compiled by Marsden Jacobs Associates, found the announced allocation is expected to increase across the season, with allocations predicted to reach 100 per cent for Victorian high-reliability water shares and 92 per cent for SA Murray high-security under ‘average’ seasonal conditions.

Victorian opening allocations are as follows: Murray system 15 per cent HRWS, Goulburn and Loddon systems 37 per cent HRWS, Campaspe system 40 per cent HRWS and Broken system 30 per cent HRWS.

Lake Eildon is holding about 52 per cent of capacity, and Dartmouth Dam is at 53 per cent.