May rain gives flying start to crop growers

Solid May rainfall has started to join up with early summer soil moisture


May rainfall boosts soil moisture profile in some parts of Victoria.

GOOD RAIN: May rain has boosted confidence among crop growers, says Agriculture Victoria agronomist Dale Boyd.

GOOD RAIN: May rain has boosted confidence among crop growers, says Agriculture Victoria agronomist Dale Boyd.

May rainfall has boosted the soil moisture profile in many parts of Victoria, with some regions set up for a similar season to 2017, according to Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Boyd

Half way through May, Mr Boyd said some parts of Victoria had picked up 125per cent of the mean long-term average rainfall for the month.

"Potentially there is 100mm of soil moisture plus, sitting there in reserve, as plant available water,"Mr Boyd said.

Monitoring sites within areas that significantly exceeded the long-term average rainfall showed moisture infiltration to 30cm and beyond.

"These areas have started the cropping season with a deep soil moisture profile that is already building," Mr Boyd said.

"Where existing moisture was in reserve from December rain, the two profiles are connected.

"Similar observations, early in 2017, identified great early crop growth rates and development of a root system that set up good yield potential, during winter."

Mr Boyd said moisture probes between Birchip, Normanville and Bangerang detected infiltration beyond 100cm in mid May, following the above average summer rain.

In mid May the Birchip probe recorded moisture down to 90cm, after the profile was filled from the December rain event, the highest on record.

At Coonooer Bridge, where moisture levels were recorded down to 70-80cm from summer rain, the May falls had wet the zone to a higher plant available water percentage.

But he said while there had been good falls in the second half of May, showers in some areas hadn't enough "punch" to put moisture down deeply.

"It generally fell on a very dry topsoil horizon, that soaked up large volumes, before allowing deeper infiltration.

"There are still areas that require better connection, if they were fortunate to get that storm event, in December.

"But even with these showers, the emergence of crops has been great, plant populations are meeting expectations and crop devlopment is proceeding along.

Mr Boyd said a full rotation was on the cards for some parts of the Mallee and west Wimmera.

"Pulses, oil seeds, even hay crop options are all in the mix, this season."

He said farmers had also gained the benefits of fallowing, brown manure and hay crops, to conserve moisture.

"They have done a great job of controlling summer weeds and conserving that deep soil moisture."

Normanville and Ouyen

Bec Marshall, Normanville, said her property had received 46mm of rain for May.

"It's a long time since we have had that much, it's coming in smaller amounts, so it's not infiltrating the profile, but it's certainly enough to get all the crop up and going," Ms Marshall said.

"We haven't had that big rain, to get all the way through."

That was reflected in Normanville soil moisture probe figures from mid-May, which showed moisture down to 40cm from the December rain, with remaining residual moisture down past 80cm.

"A lot of that moisture is at depth and it will be coming into play, this spring," Ms Norman said.

The property had been planted to wheat, barley, lentils, peas and vetch.

Adam O'Callaghan, Ouyen, has planted barley, wheat, oats, vetch, hay and lupins.

"We've probably got a pretty full profile to 40mm, since we started sowing," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"We went into a dry profile, but there was moisture, down deeper, from December."

Crops were off to a good start, but farmers in the area would be looking for more falls in June and spring.

"We need that consistent rainfall, through June, July and August.

"The plant roots are going to go down deep, which helped us last year.'

"If we don't get spring rain, they can hang on and we can get average yields, which will be good, if grain prices keep driving up."

He said the summer spraying program had been crucial to save moisture for when it was needed.

Swan Hill

Leigh Bryan, Swan Hill, said while the area only received between 20-40mm, there was some subsoil moisture, depending on whether the paddock had been fallowed, grew cereals or legumes.

"We are good for a while," Mr Bryan said.

"We are not wet, by any means, but if we get some sort of growing season rainfall, we will be okay," Mr Bryan said.

He said he expected an average season on plantings of wheat, barley, canola, lentils, field peas, chick peas and lupins.

"It was a good amount of rain and good timing,"he said.

"At the moment, the crops are looking as if we had the rain on Anzac Day, they are flying out of the ground."

"We have the moisture to tap into.

"It was such a shocking year, last year, a lot of plants couldn't get big enough to pull that moisture out of the ground.

'You would have thought they would pump it dry, but they couldn't physically do it."


Andrew Laidlaw, Ararat, said the area was off to a good start, with the soil moisture profile improving and filling, after a long, dry summer.

He said the property had received 140mm of rain for the month.

Soil moisture probes for mid-May showed half of that rain had already infiltrated down to depths of 70cm.

"People say it's a late break, but I tend to disagree," Mr Elliott said.

"Everyone says the traditional break is around Anzac Day, but we got ours on May one, which was only a few days later.

"I would say it was very timely."

Canola, wheat and barley had been dry sown.

"There was no subsoil moisture, none, zero, it was completely dry."

Mr Elliott said he wasn't concerned if there was only light rainfall in June.

"We still have good traffic on our paddocks, but we'll see what happens.

"It's all about spring now - this has got us off to a good start, but by no means are we assured of a good season yet."


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