Growers show 'crop-timisim'

Growers show 'crop-timisim' in the Wimmera


Cropping
POSITIVE: Wimmera grain grower Greg McDonald, Toolondo, says good rainfall has laid the foundations for a promising harvest season. Photo by Gregor Heard.

POSITIVE: Wimmera grain grower Greg McDonald, Toolondo, says good rainfall has laid the foundations for a promising harvest season. Photo by Gregor Heard.

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Grain growers in Victoria's Wimmera district are optimistic about this year's harvest season, despite forecasts indicating an increase in frost activity.

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Grain growers in the Wimmera district are quietly confident this year's crop season could yield some of the best results in more than a decade.

Primary producers near Horsham say decent rainfall at the right time has contributed to much of the optimism, with cereals such as wheat and barley predicted to have a "bumper year".

However, Bureau of Meteorology indicators show there could be an increased risk of frost this spring, with high pressure systems predicted leading to clear skies and light winds.

Greg McDonald runs a mixed farming operation at Toolondo, 45 kilometres south-west of Horsham, and said consistent winter rainfall which had carried into spring had helped "set the tone" for the season.

Mr McDonald has planted about 2500 hectares of a variety of crops, including 1000 hectares of wheat and canola, respectively, as well as a mix of clover and hay oats.

"It's looking very good, I'd say better than last year," he said.

"We've had two or three inches of rain every month from June through to August and it's probably a bit drier than normal but that suits us.

"In fact we've probably had enough rain but at the end of the day it'll be the frost that'll hurt us, we don't want any frost but we can't do anything to stop that."

New quarterly research released by Rabobank in its rural confidence survey this week found grain growers were among the most confident producers in Victoria because of good winter rainfall and the late autumn break.

The study found 65 per cent of those surveyed cited seasonal conditions as a key reason for their optimistic outlook, while commodity prices were nominated by 53 per cent respondents.

"The Wimmera is looking fantastic, particularly around Horsham where the soil moisture profile is almost full," Rabobank regional manager for southern Victoria and Tasmania Hamish McAlpin said.

"Yield potential begins to dissipate as you head into the Mallee, however, with below-average prospects around Mildura."

Rodwells Wimmera manager Wayne Driscoll said a majority of producers were pleased with the decent start to spring, but remained cautious about the potential frost threat expected in the coming months.

"It's right up there in what I've seen in 20 years, it rivals the best," Mr Driscoll said.

"When you looked in the gauge last year with a predicted rainfall of five to 10 millimetres, you'd get four.

"This year with that same promise we're getting 12."

"The cereals are doing well, there's a bit of canola around and it's still very good but cereals like your your traditional Wimmera crops like wheat and barley are absolutely magnificent."

Another grain grower Andrew Chincarini, Brimpaen, 35 kilometres south of Horsham, said despite a lack of spring rain and the frost threat, his 2000 hectares of wheat, canola and barley had the potential to yield more on recent seasons.

"If the tap was turned off now, the crop would finish but it would certainly be tight enough," Mr Chincarini said.

"At this time of the year we're looking at crops that could be five-tonnes [per hectare] and even with some frost, we still have the potential to be up on platerevious years where we've had a frosted three-tonne crop."

However, Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Keris Arndt said climate indicators pointed towards warmer day-time temperatures throughout Victoria during most of spring.

"The warmer conditions will be produced by clearer skies and more sunshine, but the flip-side of that is that we get the clear nights giving us a higher risk of frost," Mr Arndt said.

"The outlook for the next few months is that nights are likely to be cooler than average, including in the Wimmera, and that's for September into October which means there might be an increased risk for frosty mornings."

Mr Arndt said frosty conditions would be increased due to high pressure systems sitting above the state, leading to clear nights and light winds.

He said rainfall in the Wimmera was "about average" this winter with the southern Wimmera recording between 300 and 400mm of rainfall, while the northern Wimmera towards the Mallee recorded between 100 and 200mm.

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