Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    BUSY: Mockinya farmer Andrew Bell, who runs sheep and a small cropping operation south of Horsham, has been busy sowing clover seeds for hay to feed his livestock. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

AgLife: Dry start to cropping


Dry weather affecting many parts of the Wimmera-Mallee has left farmers hanging on for signs of an autumn break to make a start to their winter-cropping programs. 

Parts of the Wimmera and southern Mallee have received less than five millimetres of rain across the month of April. 

Horsham has recorded 4.6mm, compared with 56mm last year. Edenhope has recorded 15mm, Hopetoun 3mm and Stawell 7mm. 

Article continues below

South-eastern parts of the region have fared slightly better, with Ararat recording 23.4mm. 

Mockinya farmer Andrew Bell, who runs sheep and a small cropping operation south of Horsham, has been busy sowing clover seeds for hay to feed his livestock. 

He said his property had received 50mm of rain since January this year – half the rainfall he received in the same period last year. 

“Conditions have been terribly dry, one of the driest starts to the year I can remember,” he said.

“Everything is being dry sown, and it’s been very dusty and quite hard on the equipment. 

“The wettest month we’ve had this year was probably January, which isn’t particularly beneficial.”

Mr Bell said he was having to hand feed his sheep due to the dry weather.

“That takes a lot of time and expense,” he said. 

“But, we have a lot of hay and grain on hand still so we can maintain the condition of the sheep.

“But cropping wise, we’ll just put in crops that we know can sit in the ground and not have to grow for a month if it doesn’t rain.  We’re staying positive – the autumn break is traditionally not until the middle of May.” 

Murra Wurra grain farmer David Jochinke said dry conditions persisting throughout summer and autumn presented challenges for sowing season across the region.

“Our conditions are very dry compared with the central and eastern sides of the state,” he said. 

“It was also an extremely dry summer, and our autumn break doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon.”

Familiar territory

Mr Jochinke said despite favourable rain in recent seasons, Wimmera-Mallee farmers were all too familiar with drier conditions they were facing. 

“These are conditions we’ve faced before,” he said.

“What we’ve always found is, while you never put too many eggs in one basket, you can sow quite comfortably in dry conditions.” 

Mr Jochinke said farmers were more dependent on winter and spring rain. 

“A lot of the time the outcome of cropping usually comes down to what spring does for us,” he said. 

“I would rather have a strong spring than autumn if I had to choose between the two. 

“In saying that, we still have a bit to go before autumn finishes.” 

Mr Jochinke said he was hoping to make a start on his cropping program before the end of April. 

“We’re just doing the final touches to get our cropping program underway. We’re probably slightly behind where we would like to be,” he said. 

“We’re going to start soon, we’re hoping to get canola and beans in. 

“We’ll be keeping our program fairly untouched, but I’m probably looking at putting in a touch more canola and a bit more wheat over barley than I usually would.” 

Mr Jochinke said the Wimmera-Mallee had largely ‘missed out’ on heavy rains associated with a La Niña weather pattern that had been affecting much of Australia’s eastern seaboard since September. 

“Other areas in the nation were hit pretty hard with heavy rain due to the La Niña weather pattern, but we’ve seen barely any of that in the west and north-west of Victoria,” he said. 

“Most of the Wimmera and southern Mallee has gone through a dry autumn.

“You’ve only got to get to central Victoria, and they’ve had a substantial amount more than us.”

The Bureau of Meteorology three-month climate outlook overview reported May to July rain would likely be below average for parts of south-east Australia. 

The bureau also reported an El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate driver remained in a neutral signal, similar with most other climate drivers.

The entire April 28, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser and AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!