Soil moisture levels variable

Soil moisture levels are variable

Cropping
GOLDEN: Canola crops at flowering in the north-central district.

GOLDEN: Canola crops at flowering in the north-central district.

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Recent rains have helped as soil moisture levels vary across cropping areas.

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Croppers in the west and south-west of the state have had their season receive a fillip with last weekend's rain.

The rains assisted crops as far north as parts of the Mallee, generally up to 10 millimetres, and the Wimmera where up to 30mm boosted soil moisture levels at a critical time for crops

Agriculture Victoria agronomist Dale Boyd said Wimmera crop growth was quite varied but the region didn't have the deep moisture reserves like it did last year.

He said both the Wimmera and Mallee was reliant on spring rain still, particularly the district in the Millewa with smaller water holding capacity of the light texture soils.

"Excellent conditions are still being experienced in central and northern Victoria and in the North East where moisture reserves are deep and the crops are now starting to utilise this," he said.

"High yielding potential crops have been fed well and have large biomass. Rain on the weekend, and any further rain, will maintain yield with preservation of deep moisture."

South west crops were well placed with soil profiles topped up with 30-50mm rain on September 12.

The recent falls of 10mm in the Mallee would have short lived benefits, but would freshen up crops, he said.

The 10-20mm in the Wimmera went part way to replenishing the soil water deficit but more rain was required to achieve crop yield potential, while rainfall above 30mm in early/mid-September for the south west was perfect, he said.

For areas north of the divide, the rain came just in time before significant yield declines were felt.

Mr Boyd said there were areas with limited deep soil moisture that required further rain to achieve crop yield potential that would benefit from further spring rain..

Mr Boyd said soil moisture measurements collected by the Agriculture Victoria monitoring network showed the Mallee sites before the weekend were generally similar to this time last year, while the Wimmera sites continued their trend to be generally a lot drier. Exceptions were crops on fallow.

North Central and North East Victoria were still in a great moisture position, but there had been a rapid moisture depletion in the more advanced crops in the past week.

He said most cropping scenarios based on soil moisture data would require substantial rain at some stage in September to maintain yield potential.

"Earlier the better as this will provide conditions to assist cereals through flowering. North of the divide canola will have a longer flowering period if the environment and moisture conditions are favorable (rainfall will help these conditions)," he said.

Tony Linklater, Speed, said measured around 7-10mm across his cropping land.

He said the falls were beneficial on the lighter soils he farms.

He had measured 150 to 180mm in the growing period across his farming blocks.

There was sub-soil moisture accessible by the crops down to a metre.

"Rain is always a benefit on a green crop. Our prospects are quite good. We probably lost a bit of yield potential to frost and there has been some moisture stress before the last rain," he said.

Cropping and livestock producer, Jonno Hicks, Kaniva, recorded 20mm on Saturday.

"It was brilliant really. It makes a difference to our year. Rain at this time of year means big money to the district."

The area had a really good start but then a cold and dry winter - including the second lowest July total on record.

"We would like a follow-up rain but the latest falls will make a big difference."

He said yield potential wise, it was looking good but there was not much moisture in reserve.

Elders wool area manager, Craig Potter, said the area around Ararat received 40mm but falls of 50mm were received in an area near Derrinallum and Westmere.

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