Drought Breaker

Relentless rains which charged into the region at the weekend combined with record-high downpours reported over the past two months have brought confidence to the Mid North.

Despite the abrupt winds, chill and hail recorded in some parts, the wet has provided much-needed relief to emerging pastures, low rainwater tanks and parched dams.

Mid North and Yorke Peninsula independent agronomist Craig Davis is among those left impressed with the widespread flush of green.

“It’s been quite a long period of time since we have had a traditional winter,” he told the Plains Producer. Yet quickly recalled exceptional years of rains recorded in 2016, 2010 and 2005.

“If we went back 15 to 20 years there was persistent rain over a number of days and weeks, but it’s been quiet since the millennial years started.”

The recent weather, Craig says, has chiefly helped to build up soil moisture.

“The rain’s been soaking away fairly nicely which is a good thing.”

More importantly, he said, “It means tax is paid, money injected into the local communities, farmers building and improving on their capital assets to replace machinery and sheds. It all flows down … it’s money in mud.”

He reported how one farmer near Mallala recorded 150mm of rain in June and July.

“Last year in those same two months he received 50mm.”

In the hills, Craig explained how many landholders were generally keen for some runoff water this time of year.

“These people rely on surplus water for stock.”

“We have just started to see some dam water building and if we were to get another inch then we would start to see creeks run and dams fill,” he enthused.

However, Craig warned extra water build up can prove problematic in some paddocks as farmers seek to keep disease and weeds at bay.

“What you end up with is deep wheel marks left in the paddock or a setback for the farmers who can’t spray and spread,” he said.

“But I don’t think we will get to the point like those farmers getting bogged in Western Australia, well not yet.”

Crops faring well under the current conditions, he said, include canola and beans.

“There can be increased disease risk on crops, so we are at risk at the moment.

“Anytime you get wet conditions you always get an amount of leaf diseases on cereal crops like barley.”

Farmers now seek favourable conditions of a few fine weeks to catch up with operations.

“Yet for yields, ideal conditions still mean rains needed in August where the crop growth is quite rapid and they use a lot more water,” Craig said.

“We always welcome the rains towards the end of winter into spring.”

Fourth generation Inkerman farmer Shane Mudge is stoked with the huge break in the season.

“This weather has taken it (the land) from a disappointing start to the year to almost traditional expectations,” he said.

Adding happily how it also brought out the ducks.

“From a cropping point of view, things are ticking along nicely.”

While Shane said he’s not getting onto the paddocks quick enough to spray and spread like in the past, he says it’s a small problem in the big picture.

The ongoing drier years has led to parts of his 2000ha owned and leased coastal mixed farming land eroding from the winds.

“The salt where we are was getting quite bad and led to germination issues.”

“All that has recovered and is looking good.”

Shane says he sows 600ha to pasture, predominantly wheat and barley, followed by oaten hay, lentil and vetch for season hay.

“This country runs into coastal grazing, or lucky dip, and we (wife Naomi) only sell if the year is going well.”

“For the past three years we had crops growing that we haven’t bothered to harvest.”

From memory, Shane said the farm received 53mm last month.

“We were getting rains but not big rains for the start of July and I think we were up about 50mm by Saturday.”

Compared with past years across the same two months, Shane said it was fairly dry with only 25-30mm recorded.

“I am happy to see the green covering the paddock, the salt has shrunk back, and we can push ahead, which is great for us.

He’s also pleased the frost has held off, which would suck moisture out of the ground and slowed crop growths.

“All round things are now tracking very nicely and there is an air of optimism for the moment.”

“We expect wins and losses, yet we are extremely happy at the moment because we’ve got stock feed and our crops are growing, we have all angles covered,” Craig added.

SA State Emergency Services logged about 15 callouts in the Mid North district between Friday to mid-Monday due to the severe weather conditions.

A SES spokesperson said the majority involved fallen trees or limbs.

Meanwhile, the service has issued another severe weather warning for the week, urging regional residents to secure any loose property items as the high winds continue.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast for today (Wednesday) predicts a medium chance of showers across the region. On Wednesday, cool to mild conditions can be expected, grading to warm temperatures.

On Thursday the region is likely to experience a chilly morning resulting from frost patches.

Friday will be similar to Wednesday, while Saturday there is a high chance of showers predicted to fall.