CROPPERS and graziers in northern Australia are deciding how best to utilize last week’s rainfall.
NSW DPI agronomist Loretta Serafin, based in Tamworth, said with wildly varying tallies, ranging from virtually nothing in areas west of the Newell Highway to healthy falls of over 30mm in areas to the north of Moree, there would be different management strategies.
She added given the timing of the rain event, slightly before the summer crop planting window, it could be used in different ways.
“Those people with livestock and the pure croppers will have different approaches,” Ms Serafin said.
“Among those that got some rain and have livestock there is talk of planting a late winter forage crop on the back of the rain, either oats or barley for the most part, simply to get some feed up and running as early as possible,” she said.
“For the pure croppers, the focus will be on looking at storing as much moisture as possible with a view to a summer crop.”
In promising news for summer croppers, a follow-up band of rain is forecast to hit northern NSW and southern Queensland next week, meaning cumulative totals are more likely to get to useful thresholds.
However, for many the rain is simply a morale-booster.
Xavier Martin, who farms at Mullaley, west of Gunnedah, said he had only picked up 10-15mm in recent weeks.
“It is fantastic for morale, it fills up rainwater tanks and it may mark a change in the weather pattern, but on our heavy clay soils we really need rain events of 30mm or more to be of use.”
“There are people who have had 20-30mm and that is great, but for the region to get even a modest soil moisture profile before a summer crop we’d need a widespread 60-100mm.”
He said there was very little winter crop on the Liverpool Plains.
“There may be the odd dry sown paddock that is still around but by and large there is nothing.”
Ms Serafin said some dry sown fodder paddocks had emerged on the back of the recent rain after being planted way back in March and April.
“Those with livestock will hope these crops get going and create a bit of feed,” she said.
She said soil temperatures were still too cold to seriously consider planting summer crop as yet.
“People will have to wait before going in with a summer crop.”
Most people looking at dryland summer cropping will be planning to plant sorghum, although Ms Serafin said there was some interest in cotton due to high prices.