Farmers struggle after record dry spell

WIMMERA farmers are struggling as the region’s record dry spell continues through autumn.

In a statement released earlier this week, the Bureau of Meteorology said the seven months up to April 30 had been the driest on record for many agricultural regions in western Victoria.

South-eastern Australia continues to experience severe rain deficiencies and April rainfall was below average for most of Victoria.

Rainfall deficiencies in the Wimmera range from severe to lowest on record for the seven months.

Beulah farmer Ross Williams said he had never seen it this dry before.

“It is having a huge effect on us,” he said.

“We are thinking about changing to different crops and different varieties.

“We have dropped off canola and are doing a lot of thinking at the moment.”

Mr Williams said he had started dry sowing.

“I don’t really like doing it that way, but we had to do something,” he said.

“But if we don’t get rain soon, we won’t grow anything.

“I’m hoping someone has a nice crystal ball that can tell us what will happen.”

Goroke farmer Andrew Robertson said he had started dry sowing beans.

“It is often dry at this time of year, but this is a much longer dry period than we have had in the past,” he said.

“I would love to get some good rain so we can start throwing seeds into damp soil.”

Nhill farmer Andrew Colbert said this year’s start to the season was a familiar scenario for him.

“Nhill had a drought last year, so it is business as usual for us,” he said.

“We put all our crops in dry last year, so we are doing it that way again.

“We have actually had about 20 more millimetres of rain than this time last year.”

Department of Primary Industries agronomist Chris Sounness said the majority of Wimmera farmers had started dry sowing.

“There are different risks involved with dry sowing,” he said.

“If farmers sow before the break, the crop can come up more quickly and be more advanced at the end of the season,” he said.

“But there are risks of poor emergence and frost damage.”

He said some farmers were hesitant to sow canola.

“People are waiting to see what happens through May and will decide whether to sow it or not later on,” he said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Stephen King said there wasn’t much rain expected for the Wimmera in the coming week.

“We have a band coming through on Sunday, but it will only bring about five millimetres of rain,” he said.

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