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    PINK SKY AT NIGHT: Low moisture-laden clouds across the Wimmera last week turned a dramatic pink overnight in Horsham’s west. The strange phenomenon was caused by illuminating lamps in new hothouses at Grains Innovation Park. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

AgLife: A perfect drop at a perfect time


Broadacre farmers across the Wimmera and Mallee are describing last week’s heavy and widespread rain as one of the best starts to a cropping season since the 1980s.

They tipped between 20 and 60 millimetres from gauges in an area spanning from south of the Grampians to deep into the Mallee, with the heaviest falls in the north.

History suggests the best timing for the autumn break to set-up conditions for a bumper harvest later in the year occurs shortly before Anzac Day. The rain came as if almost on queue.

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Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera branch immediate past-president Graeme Maher said the amount, spread and extent of the rain had opened a door of opportunity in cropping security and diversity.

He said farmers now had a choice of sowing a variety of crops based on a market demand for grain – and could do it with sense of confidence.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to know we obviously have a long way to go in the season. But we’re seeing $1000 a tonne for canola and $400 for wheat and strong demand generally for grain,” he said.

“The prices are historically as good as we’ve seen and yes it’s a long, long way to go. 

“But this rain means these options are all now available to us.”

Mr Maher, who farms at Lubeck, Dadswells Bridge and Mt Dryden, said farmers always sowed with a degree of nervousness.

“But this rain has taken a major issue out of the equation,” he said. 

“We know we can get the crops up and running and they will most probably be right until late winter. Who knows what spring brings? But at this stage, being able to get the crops up going is all we want. It’s a massive part of it all.”

Mr Maher said cropping farmers now had the benefit of adopting a ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ approach for their sowing schedules.

“Just about everyone I’ve talked to is in the same boat. Because we had relatively high temperatures during Easter and then 20mm to 60mm of rain, the weeds will be up in about seven days,” he said.

“We therefore wait 10 to 12 days, apply herbicide to kill the weeds and sow the crops. When that happens it’s perfect timing and we can’t ask for it to be better than that.

“The rain comes as a real ‘diamond in the rough’ considering issues with seed and fertiliser availability and supply issues.”

Mr Maher said the autumn rain would also have a significant positive impact on grazing.

“It means the pasture will be up and growing  before winter and, in some cases, before issues arise with insects – and that’s ideal,” he said.

“People managing lambing can be confident their sheep are going to have good pasture and that means healthier stock.

“It’s put a real spring in the step. It’s certainly put smiles on faces. The benefits are many and varied – from simply generating a general fresh sense of confidence in the industry to tackling mental-health issues. And these benefits flow onto the broader community.

“It renews confidence that might have been on the wane in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and everything associated with it. Because it is so general it will benefit the community at large.”

Analysis of rain figures across the region showed more than 50mm at Warracknabeal, up to and around 30mm in Horsham and Nhill and in the mid 20mm at Stawell. Figures varied, sometimes markedly, between parts of the region and farms but most of the falls were significant. 

The entire April 27, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire April 27, 2022 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!