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Central West Queensland

Grains & Cropping

7 December, 2020

Scattered thunderstorms not what grain growers are looking for

"Just where is La Nina? The Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast La Nina has been teasing us for months. Winter was supposed to be when we got the big wet."

Brendan Taylor

Just where is La Nina? The Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast La Nina has been teasing us for months. Winter was supposed to be when we got the big wet. Then spring. Now it seems like summer, December hopefully, is when the rains will finally arrive.

Winter harvest has now finished, and it wasn’t helped by the early arrival of summer storms that targeted isolated pockets of the State.

Patchy rain caused variable maturity of crops for growers and meant many struggled to get a good run on.

Most of the rain we did get fell in the south of the State, especially around the Downs and southern border and produced some of the best harvests in those areas since 2016.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the central and north, where it has been particularly dry and therefore cropping is at its worst.

As for summer planting, we still need rain and plenty of it, which is why we’re all watching skies with interest.

Grain growers make decisions on forecasts so if you’re told you’re going to get rain in spring, like happened this year, and you plant a crop and the rain doesn’t come it's a very costly business – for the crop, and for your hip pocket.

Feast or famine has been the recurring cycle for a while now and, as anyone who knows about cropping will tell you, makes for very difficult conditions.

At my own property, at Warra in the Western Downs, we had flooding in January, but only three inches of rain all year since.

Some on the Downs have started planting. However, unfortunately for growers in Central Queensland, the lack of adequate rainfall means they look like missing out again.

Many growers throughout Queensland are measuring valuable soil moisture, looking for that elusive summer rain to join stored soil moisture with adequate topsoil moisture.

The problem is last calendar year brought the lowest rainfall ever recorded in the State, so ground soil moisture in many growing areas is almost non-existent.

It’s the cumulative effect of long periods of dry weather that makes it so tough. Those short, intense bursts of rain brought by storms are harder to capture, and floods, like the one out my way at the beginning of the year, are good for the damns and river systems, but run right off the land when it's so dry.

What we need is good, steady rainfall – I call it English rain – not a deluge.

For those doing it tough because of drought, AgForce continues to be involved in drought support discussions and advocacy to ensure the true picture of what it’s like on the ground is heard at both a State and Federal level.

We all know the drought isn’t over, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure those who need support get it.

But in the meantime, we wait, and we listen to the forecasts – the forecasts that keep telling us La Nina is on the way.

Let’s hope they’re right this time and she gets here soon. Wouldn’t that make for the best Christmas?



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