FARMERS welcomed widespread falls of 20-40mm across parched tracts of northern NSW last week, however most say the rain is too late to significantly alter winter crop prospects.
Instead, they are looking to the falls as the starting point towards building a bank of moisture sufficient to plant a summer crop.
Private estimates for NSW wheat production are now as low as 4 million tonnes, less than half last year with the rain not likely to drastically alter production outlooks.
“It will probably save what yield potential there was rather than add more,” said Adam Robinson, Robinson Grain.
He said the best falls were in areas to the north of Dubbo where yields were largely set.
“It will not hurt, it will probably allow some remaining crops to fill and will boost grain weight, especially in later sown crops, but by and large it will be a little late,” Mr Robinson said.
Coonamble farmer Ray Williams backed up Mr Robinson’s comments.
“We’ve received 23mm,” he said on Monday.
“What wheat we have left is still green and the rain won’t do it any harm, but we’ve already sprayed out the majority and are planning for next year.”
Mr Robinson said the crop set to benefit the most would be chickpeas.
“Those chickpea crops that went in later could be helped, it gives them some potential.”
Mr Williams agreed.
“A follow up rain would be necessary, but we could still get a chickpea crop with the right conditions.”
Mr Robinson said the lack of rain meant many areas were on the cusp of unseasonably early starts to harvest.
“To the west of Dubbo, places like Tottenham, they are probably only ten days away from harvest, so the rain is too late there,” he said.
Not all the state is in poor condition, Mr Robinson said pockets east of Moree and in the eastern, cooler part of the Central West there would be reasonable yields.
Even within districts where crops are generally disappointing, he said farmers with long fallow or who managed to land an extra thunderstorm driven rain would have isolated paddocks that performed OK.
However, he said by and large the state was gripped by drought.
“Unfortunately these pockets will be the exception rather than the rule.”
He said farmers would now have an eye on generating an income through a summer crop.
“On the Darling Downs in Queensland they will be able to get a crop in from late October, that gets later as you head into NSW, but any rain will be welcomed as it will bolster the soil moisture profile.”
Mr Robinson said farmers were happy to see a sustained rainfall regardless of its timing.
“They are hopeful it marks the start of a much needed change to the weather pattern,” he said.
Further north, a recent Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) report found grain yields would be similarly disappointing in the Sunshine State.
It predicted wheat yields of just 0.95 tonnes a hectare across the state, which is 42pc below long term median levels.
In particular, south-east and south-west Queensland are in the grip of a very poor winter cropping season, with yields likely to be at decile 1 levels, or among the lowest 10pc on record.
Central Queensland has been better due to good stored moisture levels leading into the season.
With NSW yield largely set, the Aussie grains industry is now closely watching a weather system currently crossing South Australia and pushing into Victoria.
Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts predict up to 25mm, but up until Wednesday lunchtime falls were less than 5mm.
A heavy rain would save moisture stressed crops in South Australia and lock in healthy yield potential in Victoria.