THE news may still be grim in terms of weather patterns, with a drier than average late spring and early summer still very much on the cards, but farmers across the nation have had a welcome respite to the dry through early October.
In Victoria, a soaking rain across the Wimmera/Mallee has come too late for some croppers but will add hundreds of millions of dollars of income to others, along with promoting a late spring flush of pasture for graziers in the Western District.
The band of rain through western Victoria earlier this week delivered falls of 10-30mm through the Wimmera and will consolidate the area’s yield potential following a parched September with virtually no rain.
While too late for the north of the region it will lock in close to average yields for some in the south and the west.
Peter Hicks, Kaniva, near the South Australian border, is one of the lucky ones.
“We had 25mm all up and it is just fantastic – we’re in the Garden of Eden here,” he said.
“The crop is still very much receptive to rain, it had been getting quite dry and some crops, such as the durum wheat, were starting to fall over but it will all respond.
“We see the rest of the country and we know we are in a very lucky position here.”
He said all crops in his area would be harvested, in contrast to much of the rest of Victoria where significant tracts of crop land have been cut for hay due to a combination of dry conditions and frost.
For the McGennisken family, who farm various blocks south of Horsham, the rain will be of mixed benefit.
Sam McGennisken said the heavy black ground near Horsham had already suffered from dry and frost and that areas had already been cut for hay.
He said there had been 18mm at the family’s Bungalally block, which he said did not think would damage the hay on the ground, but said it may be too late to add extra yield to remaining crops.
Brother Leigh said, however, on other blocks further to the south at Wonwondah the rain would dramatically boost crop prospects.
“For those crops that are still green it is going to be a real bonus.”
Farmers with green cereal crops were working on increased yields in the vicinity of 20-30 kilograms a hectare per millimetre of rain, subtracting the first 3mm, meaning a 25mm rain could deliver around 0.5 tonnes to the hectare more grain.
With wheat values at close to $500 a tonne it could mean an extra $250/ha in gross income.
It was not just Victoria that is enjoying a welcome spell from dry weather.
Several weather fronts have swept across virtually all regions throughout October, with Queensland farmers in particular, eagerly awaiting further heavy falls predicted for the weekend.
South-west NSW, one of the hardest hit areas by drought, was one area to receive good rain in a front that passed through at the start of the month.
There were widespread falls of 25-50mm across much of the pastoral country north of Mildura.
Menindee received 50mm in the deluge earlier this week. To put it into perspective, the far western town had only received 36mm for the entire year up until the downpour.
In terms of national crop production, experts said the extra tonnages generated in the Wimmera and Western District would not dramatically alter national supply and demand estimates.
Nick Carracher, risk consultant with Intl FC Stone, said his company had cut its national wheat estimate by 2.4 million tonnes from its September estimate, to total production of 16.4m tonnes.
He said the Victorian rain would assist in locking in baseline yields but said Western Australia would still be the major player in terms of tonnages, with his number around 9.3m tonnes of wheat out of the west.
He said the Victorian rain would assist in locking in baseline yields but said Western Australia would still be the major player in terms of tonnages, with Intl FC Stone number for around 9.3m tonnes of wheat out of the west.
“It is definitely a weird season and its extremely hard to predict what is going on with the market,” Mr Carracher said.
“The biggest issue is now not the production, which shouldn’t vary too much from here on, more the exports and how much wheat will we export.
“Obviously the market is pricing in the drought premium so every tonne that can will go to that domestic market, but there will still be an exportable surplus.
“We’re watching what happens there.”
He said the industry was also closely watching the predicted weekend rain and what it meant for the summer crop plant.
“The market is very focused on the sorghum plant and what it means for east coast balance sheets.”
“Most of the region has been in an enforced fallow period and will take at least 100mm to build an adequate moisture profile for a widescale summer crop plant,” Mr McMeekin said.
He said the Western Australia situation was hard to assess, with conditions varying from region to region and the impact of frost yet to be truly identified.
“An extremely dry September and several severe frosts early in the month, had put downward pressure on potential record-breaking winter crop production estimates,” he said.
However, he said recent rain would assist crops that were starting to struggle.
“Although patchy in some districts, the falls were very welcome and will certainly help to consolidate grain production.