Farmers heartened by wet winter outlook

Farmers heartened by wet winter outlook

Cropping
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WITH the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a wetter-than-average winter across the country, many SA cropping regions look set to capitalise on a good start to the year.

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WITH the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a wetter-than-average winter across the country, many SA cropping regions look set to capitalise on a good start to the year.

After a "mixed bag" of results in 2019 due to late frost in the district, Woodchester's Neil Harvey said the start to the 2020 cropping season had been ideal.

Mr Harvey - who grows wheat, canola, barley and oats, as well as dry-sown vetch and barley to feed his 1800 Merino ewes - said 194 millimetres of rain had been received up until Wednesday, compared with 75mm at the same time last year.

"We put canola in the day after Anzac Day and we're already putting fertiliser on that," he said.

"The majority of the wheat is out of the ground. Unfortunately wind did some damage to a few hectares last Saturday, but touch wood we'll have favourable conditions in the next couple of weeks for it to grow out of it."

Most croppers on the Fleurieu had finished seeding, according to Mr Harvey.

"The season ahead is looking promising," he said.

"The subsoil moisture is high so the soil will wet up quickly with every rain we get. Hopefully conditions are kind at the other end, we get some spring rain and the frost stays away."

After a couple of tough years in the Riverland, Rural Directions agronomist Richard Saunders said there had been a "beautiful opening" to the cropping season, following good rainfall in April.

"This season we are just below average with 115mm for the year, while last year to this date we'd had 33mm," he said.

"We have good subsoil moisture and the crops are emerging really well."

Mr Saunders said feed crops went in early and some people had "more than they knew what to do with".

"I saw Spartacus barley out in head a couple of weeks ago and there's some magnificent vetch almost at canopy closure.

"A lot of guys with sheep are going to be wanting to replenish their hay stocks so it might be a good year to make hay providing we get the winter rain predicted by the Bureau and nice haymaking weather in spring."

In the Lower South East, Millicent Farm Supplies agronomist John Henderson said the season was shaping up "extraordinarily well", with 40mm of rain received just over the weekend.

The BoM has forecast average winter rainfall for the region and Mr Henderson said a surprising amount of sun had crops growing well.

Cummins Ag Services agronomist Mark Habner said though there'd been a good break on the Eyre Peninsula and the season was shaping up well, non-wetting sands could still do with a long, soaking rain.

PASTORAL REGIONS STILL STRUGGLING

SA PASTORALISTS are hopeful a wet Bureau of Meteorology prediction will come to fruition, with many still grinding it out in dry conditions.

Despite having 125 millimetres to-date at Blinman, Moolooloo Station's Keith Slade said 110mm of that fell in two soaking February days, which meant the landscape dried up quickly.

"We've got some carryover feed from the February rain, but unless we get rain soon we'll be heading down the same track as 2017, '18 and '19," he said.

The dry stretch has forced Mr Slade to reduce sheep numbers on the station from 9500 to 3000, but luckily conditions at his Murraytown holding property were more favourable with good feed available.

If rain doesn't fall at Moolooloo, Mr Slade was unsure if he could hold onto the remaining sheep for much longer.

"We haven't had a winter break so winter feed isn't growing yet," he said.

Further north at Maree's Dulkaninna Station, owner David Bell has tipped 60mm out of the gauge this year - a figure matching the annual totals of the preceding three years.

Though Mr Bell is hopeful of a wet winter, he wouldn't read into any predictions until the rain was on the ground.

"Because it has been dry for so long, we need a really consistent season to get some good growth back into feed and help the country recover," he said.

"It's still well and truly a drought despite some patchy storms. Some paddocks might have had respite but that's about it."

Having already reduced his Angus and Poll Hereford herd by 80 per cent due to drought, Mr Bell was hopeful his remaining feed would get the cattle through to the next big rain.

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