Latest seasonal outlook more positive

High pressure systems move on, allowing for more rain to fall

PROMISING OUTLOOK: Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk agronomist, Dale Grey, says there are promising signs for wet weather in the coming months.

PROMISING OUTLOOK: Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk agronomist, Dale Grey, says there are promising signs for wet weather in the coming months.


Pointers looking good for wetter months ahead.


The rollercoaster ride for cropping farmers in the Mallee and Wimmera has been highlighted in the latest Agriculture Victoria seasonal outlook.

Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey told a recent webinar, high-pressure systems, over South Australia, had resulted in the lack of rain, in June and July.

"This has been the bogey that has been causing the issues," Mr Grey said.

"The lows, the fronts, the things that cause rainfall, have just gone underneath, and they have even gone underneath Tasmania, which has been causing them to have a very dry month, as well."

There had been vast improvements in the pressure anomalies, over Australia.

"If we look at the last two weeks, it would be neutral, to lower, in pressure, and we want to see it keep going that way," he said.

He said trade winds were also playing their part.

"They've been absolute cranking, they are pushing the water and holding it to the north and causing it to upwell, cooler, in the central parts.

He said that was entirely consistent with La Nina.

"If La Nina is going to occur at all, that needs to keep going.

"The poor old ocean wanted this to happen there months ago, but the atmosphere wasn't really having a bar of it.

"But now it is, and the ocean is playing catch up."

He said there had been a massive changes to pressure, in the tropics to the north of Australia, for the first time in 12 months.

"I love seeing lower pressure in the tropics that means it's like pushing water downhill to the southern states.

"Wetter is definitely more possible, particularly in the eastern states.

"The last week has given us some confidence, it might be possible."

The position of the high pressure systems, over South Australia, trumped any potential wetter conditions in June and July.

"In a nutshell the Pacific Ocean has certainly improved over the last two to three weeks, it's now half interested in being a La Nina," he said.

"Some of the recent rain has got people a bit excited, but, as they say, one swallow doesn't make a spring."

Moisture probes

Mr Grey said recent rain had started to top up soil moisture, after the dry June and July.

"It's normal, over the northern country, but the western Wimmera and south-west are much drier," Mr Grey said.

Probes in a lot of the wetter country were showing a full soil moisture profile, but dairy pasture at Jancourt was starting to lose water.'

Some of the falls, such as the 30mm at Normanville, had not penetrated below 30centimetres.

"A lot of places have just received enough rain to top up where they were 30 days ago, so there have essentially been no changes there," Mr Grey said.

"Before that rain, there had been significantly more water use particularly in that northern and central Mallee area."

Bradley Bennett, AGRIVision, Lalbert, said there'd been a "mixed bag" in the Mallee.

"Some guys are going through on decile nine rainfall, where the rain just seemed to keep falling, and other pockets that are on decile two to three," Mr Bennett said.

"That's certainly evident in the paddock crops, in that lower rainfall, are struggling, crops that are in the better area, are really humming along.

"Some areas are saying it's the best break in 30 years."

Mr Bennett said the April rain set up confidence.

'Then the taps were turned off in May, June and July, but the 15-30mm has ramped confidence up again."

Most on-farm decisions had already been locked in.

"We have herbicide residue, disease, nutrition, weeds all these sorts of factors coming into crop rotation enterprise mix discussions - those big end paddock rotations discussions have been pretty much set," Mr Bennett said.

Farmers with good stored moisture were looking for opportunities to get nitrogen on the ground.

"The confidence was still there the other guys that didn't have that stored moisture were a bit more apprehensive, but it didn't take much to get the confidence back.'

"The forecast drove confidence, to go out with some reasonable rates of nitrogen, to capitalise on potential yields.

"It may be that those using 50 kilograms of urea have gone to 70-80kg, on better soils."

But he said follow up rain was needed.

"Some of those crops have picked up 15-20mm, the situation has improved, but not drought breaking by any stretch - not saying we are in a drought," he said.

"But those crops are going to need good follow up rains, to achieve average yields of 2.5 tonnes in cereals, without the rotational benefits of hay or legumes, leaving moisture behind."

He said, if the forecasts continued to be good, there would be an increase in fungicide use.

Tungamah agronomist Josh Buerckner said 400millimetres of rain had fallen this year, with 250mm in the growing season.

Falls of 60mm had started pasture growth, with a follow up of 50mm in the last week of March and the first week in April.

"We have had a phenomenal year for sheep feed, which has enabled us to get some grazing crops, cereals and canola in during early March and April," Mr Buerckner said.

"Crop growth has been phenomenal and pasture growth unbelievable, there hasn't been much hand feeding of sheep."

Areas around Goorambat were a "bit damp,

"Crops are ahead of schedule, we are on the wetter side of high yield, and we needed a breather, from the rain."

More canola had gone in, at the expense of barley.

"We thought there was a bit more confidence, we had a bit of moisture underneath the paddocks, so we were confident to go with a bit more canola."

Promising start

Crops in Victoria's north-west have benefitted from a welcome soaking, from the front, which brought falls of up to 20 millimetres of rain.

Ryan Milgate, who has cropping and sheep properties east of Minyip and at Hall's Gap, said the weekend's rain shored up the potential for his Wimmera crops.

The property received 20 millimetres of rain, and Mr Milgate said there was the promise of more to come.

"The crops are looking good, the barley has been hit by frosts - we have had 31 frosts, since the start of June, and it was looking a bit sad," Mr Milgate said.

"The early crops are going along alright, anything a bit later is battling, a little bit,

"We were just at the point where we were going to lose potential, but we shored that back up again, and we will get through August, pretty well, even on that rainfall."

The Halls Gap block, which carried sheep, only received seven mm.

"It still looks okay, but, for August, it's dry," he said

"We would take any amount of rain, down there - we normally get that mindset that if it's a bit dry in the winter, you worry spring is going to be too short."

Narelle Drage, Lah and Brim East, said they ended up with 21mm of rain on the weekend.

"The crops are looking okay, not bumper, but not a disaster, either," Ms Drage said.

Husband David had been spreading urea and shifting sheep around, to spread the feed out.

"It was quite dry and the drink of rain was very much appreciated," she said.

Matt Rohde, Lorquon and Jeparit, said the area had received about 14-16mm of rain, which had freshened things up.

He said he had carried out a second grass spray, on his chickpeas, ahead of more showers.

"We made a last minute decision to put some urea out, 48hours before the rain," Mr Rohde said.

"We're looking forward to picking up some more, this week, with showers and possible rain - it's added some confidence again, after receiving 7.5-11mm for the whole of July."

Mr Rodhe said the crops were looking good, but needed more rain in spring, to retain yield.

"There's not been much rain over the last few days, but more showery weather is forecast," he said.

"We're tossing up if we do another spread of urea, over some wheat - some fungicide is going out and more is planned soon."

In Gippsland, Briagolong cattle producer Greg Dunsmuir said he was hoping for lighter falls.

He received 14.5mm, further boosting a solid year.

"It's just incredible, the rain that was forecast on the weekend would have made things pretty soggy," Mr Dunsmuir said.

"It's fairly moist now and the rain's now gone from here, but we didn't want any more - everything is wonderful, as it is."

He destocked during the height of the drought and was only running 45 cows and 30 replacements.

"I have cattle, but not many, because they went during the drought, and now they are too dear to buy back - it's going to take some time to build up.

'I haven't fed any hay, at all, this winter - there's going to be a glut of hay, at the end of the season."

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