While initial predictions had the season returning to average further into winter, conditions are now expected to stay drier, thanks to a forming El Nino system.
In July to date, there has only about 10 millimetres of rain in most areas, with heavier falls in the South East.
Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Darren Ray said there had been half the average rainfall for the year to date in most areas.
The Yorke Peninsula and and a strip through the Eyre Peninsula had significantly “missed out”, with less than 100mm since April, he said.
Cleve Rural Traders agronomist Geoff Rissmann could attest to the dry conditions saying the area had inconsistent crop emergence.
“All the really heavy and all the really light stuff has not come up, it's only the loamy stuff in between that has had crops emerge,” he said.
He said farmers had opted to save money by not spreading urea and had eased back on spraying.
The outlook is not great unfortunately. It's dry and it has been warm, about one to two degrees warmer than average, so it’s going to be a relatively dry winter.
“Timing has been a struggle because we’ve had some plants that are obviously too small to spray, but there are still plenty grasses and lots of broad leaf weeds around.” Mr Rissmann said.
“We’ve had some quite frosty conditions as well so that, combined with being dry hasn’t made spraying very possible, with only two or three windows for spraying in the last month.”
YPAg agronomist Darryn Schilling, Bute, said crops were starting to get on the knife-edge and farmers had to make the most of a recent, albeit small, 3mm to 5mm drop.
“We’ve got some nitrogen deficiencies showing on some sand hills and obviously a lot of herbicide spraying going on among some frosty conditions as well,” he said.
Mr Schilling said things can still turn about pretty quickly with a good rain.
“Everything is in a good position, but at the same time, some of those heavier paddocks could go backwards if we don't see something in the next 10 to 14 days,” he said.
Elders SE agronomist Adam Hancock said “you’ve either got it or you don’t” when it comes to rain this year, with the region’s farmers getting the rain when needed to push the crops along.
“We got off to a good start and we’ve had enough moisture to have really good weed control with our herbicides,” he said.
Mr Hancock has noticed more early frosts than previous years, which has caused the soil temperature to drop below 10 degrees and consequently slowed pasture growth.
DRY DAYS AHEAD
BUREAU of Meteorology senior climatologist Darren Ray stated the obvious when giving an mid-year update – “it’s dry”.
He said high pressure systems were persistent and strong in average across the Southern Ocean, causing the cold front to dive away to the south, resulting in weaker westerlies and fewer cold fronts extending into southeast Australia.
Mr Ray said the bureau’s climate models in the past six weeks had seen a push towards El Nino conditions developing during spring, with the likelihood of one forming in 2018 about 50 per cent.
El Nino events typically start in winter or spring, through summer until autumn the following year, bringing frosts and early heatwave activity through spring into early summer.
“While a few weeks ago it was looking like it would turn back towards average in July, August and September, it's now moving away from that,” Mr Ray said.
Many farmers are comparing this year to 1982, which Mr Ray said was an El Nino year, from July to March.
In the short-term, Mr Ray said there was a weak to moderate cold front system shaping up for early next week, but it was likely to only provide a small amount of rain across the lower coastal zones.
“The outlook is not great unfortunately. It's dry and it has been warm, about one to two degrees warmer than average, so it’s going to be a relatively dry winter,” he said.
Soil moisture is well below average across much of the state as a result of low rainfall and higher temperatures, the clear skies, light winds, and dry soils have also increased the frost risk across SA, he said.