A NETWORK of soil moisture probes across Victorian cropping land monitored by Agriculture Victoria has confirmed croppers in the southern state are in a strong position leading into another forecast rain event late this week.
Dale Boyd, agronomist with Agriculture Victoria, said moisture probes showed some parts of the state had their best moisture levels at sowing time for many years.
There were isolated pockets of Victoria’s cropping belt that received up to 100mm of April rainfall, but Mr Boyd said even the areas with lower autumn break figures had reasonable moisture reserves.
“You compare the readings from the probes and the readings between last year, when moisture reserves were depleted and this year, where there is generally good reserves and it is a very different outlook.”
He said most croppers had residual moisture at depth from the wet 2016.
“It depends on the crop type the year before, high yielding crops take out a good portion of moisture even in the extremely wet conditions we had last year, but if there was waterlogging or a crop was cut for hay there are high levels of moisture there.”
Mr Boyd said some croppers sowing into hay or fallow paddocks entered the 2017 on a virtually full soil moisture profile.
“This is going to be valuable if seasonal forecasts are correct and we are heading towards an average or drier than average season, this moisture gives growers confidence.
“They can also be a bit more aggressive with their crop selection and target high value crops knowing the risk factor is mitigated due to stored moisture.”
On the areas with good crop uptake of moisture last year, Mr Boyd said the opening rains had pushed the soil moisture profile from 25 per cent full to 75pc full in some cases.
In some cases on lighter soils that received good opening rain subsoil and topsoil moisture have joined up.
Mr Boyd said it would require more rain to join up moisture on heavier soil types, but added these types also stayed moist longer once wetted up.
As a collective, Mr Boyd said the probes showed moisture levels are higher than over the past five years of monitoring.
He urged growers to keep using soil moisture data throughout the growing season.
“Soil monitoring will assist with decision making for inputs during the growing season.” Rainfall kept the team at The Meadows, Rokewood, off paddocks for more than two weeks.
Andrew Witlock said the farm received 80 millimetres of rain in March and 110mm in April, to have a full soil moisture profile.
Mr Witlock was sowing canola into last year's wheat stubbles and the team is now about half-way through their sowing program. The moisture has also seen slug numbers rise, and the team have found baiting very effective.
Seapray, Gippsland, Merino producer Gregor McNaughton said there was little subsoil moisture, on his property.
He said rainfall had been patchy in Gippsland, but the country was looking in good shape.
“A good fall of 50 millimetres would get it down to the clay – the showery weather freshens the grass up, but doesn’t soak in very far,” Mr McNaughton said.
Consistent falls had meant he didn’t have to supplementary feed his ewes and lambs. “They are in pretty good shape,” he said.