Dry July a concern for croppers, but Gippsland cops a drenching

Dry July a concern for croppers, but Gippsland cops a drenching

Cropping
Daniel Pearce, Donald, was top-dressing urea at Mark Griffiths' property west of the town earlier in the month, but conditions have been very dry since.

Daniel Pearce, Donald, was top-dressing urea at Mark Griffiths' property west of the town earlier in the month, but conditions have been very dry since.

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It can't stop raining along the east coast, but in contrast parts of SA and western Victoria are becoming worryingly dry.

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THE FICKLE Australian climate is at it again.

As parts of coastal NSW suffer from flooding with over 300mm falling on South Coast centres such as Ulladulla, central and southern coastal regions over the weekend, problems are emerging with the winter crop in other parts of the country.

And the same climate driver that is delivering the heavy falls over NSW and parts of Queensland is the reason the south is missing out.

A series of high pressure systems over southern Australia is acting like a positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), which keeps conditions dry in the south and wetter further north.

In particular, South Australia has experienced one of its driest Julys on record, while much of western Victoria is also well below its average rainfall.

After a fantastic start, crops in the Wimmera and Mallee are still visually good but are starting to go off around treelines as a series of frosts knocks crops around.

The situation is more serious in parts of South Australia, such as the Eyre Peninsula, where rainfall is more heavily winter dominant, whereas SA's south-eastern region and Victoria can still pick up good rainfall through the spring with the right conditions.

Horsham is on track for its driest July since 1997, which heralded the start of the Millennium Drought, with just 15mm recorded so far and no rain forecast until at least early August.

At Donald, Daniel Pearce (pictured) said after a wet autumn the winter had been unseasonably dry. He said farmers in the region, especially those with heavier soils, were now anxiously looking for rain.

On the flip side, much of Gippsland has received welcome rains with the previously struggling East Gippsland receiving good falls courtesy of an east coast low.

Barry Newcomen, Ensay, said the latest rain event dropped more than 34mm over couple of days.

He said the rain added to the 37mm his property received a fortnight ago. The latest fall was "good steady rain" that all soaked in which would boost his oat and ryegrass crops sown for feed.

Other farmers in the district had received more than double that, while towards Omeo falls were a little lighter.

Mr Newcomen said the rains followed four straight bad years during which he had "fed out tonnes of hay".

The recent rain was still not enough to fill his recently cleaned out dams.

Sharp Fullgrabe principal, Graeme Fullgrabe, Bairnsdale, said areas from Bombala and the south coast of NSW to many parts of East Gippsland had received substantial rain of 70 to 80mm. He said the season in East Gippsland "is made" with soil temperatures still good and the grass was growing.

The rain was so gentle and didn't scour or runoff, he said.

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) senior climatologist Simon Grainger said July rainfall was likely to be in the lowest 10pc of all years since 1900 over most of western Victoria and south-east South Australia.

He said an unseasonal run of high pressure systems over July had resulted in conditions similar to the positive phase of SAM (Southern Annual Mode), where cold fronts predominantly pass to the south of the region.

The positive SAM-like conditions had meant that rainfall in parts of NSW and southern Queensland were average to above-average.

Dr Grainger said July was part of a longer-term pattern of rainfall deficit for late autumn and winter in southern Australia. After very much above average rainfall in April, where many centres were in the wettest 10pc of all years since 1900, the tap has well and truly turned off over western Victoria and south-east South Australia.

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