Wimmera and Mallee farmers are rejoicing after excellent rain in recent weeks.
On the back of a remarkable 2016 season, many farmers are sitting on healthy levels of sub-soil moisture.
While comparing seasons is something we all do, no two seasons are identical and the message remains to “prepare, don’t predict”.
When it comes to the autumn break in April, many times the result has been minimal to nothing. But this year’s start resembles that of 1999 and 2014, when April rainfall was not only plentiful but perfectly timed.
While the autumn breaks were similar in 1999 and 2014, both springs were less than ideal. In 1999, there was virtually no rain between early September and mid-October in the southern Mallee, and moisture stress became evident.
In 2014, Woomelang received 71mm in April which was one of the highest rainfall totals for the area in April. When rainfall didn’t continue in 2014, many crops suffered from moisture stress.
Those great starts and unreliable springs highlights there’s no substitute for stored soil moisture.
Growers were exceptionally busy this summer – not only with a late harvest, but out spraying as many summer weeds and volunteers as possible. While models are leaning towards a dry spring for 2017, caution should be exercised as models at this time have low accuracy. Current models suggest an El Nino could form in the later part of the year.
So, what can we learn from 2014 that may be useful in decision making this year?
Now your cropping plan has been carefully formed, don’t get caught up in short-term seasonal events. There are good reasons you made your original decisions.
Sowing canola in paddocks with sub-soil moisture is one way of reducing risk, given the variable nature associated. If you decide to sow earlier, get spring wheat varieties in the ground within 5-7 days of the optimal date to mitigate frost risk.
While we all have our fingers crossed for a favourable season, plans and contingencies must aid decision making during the season.