While the North Coast battens down the hatches with more rain predicted for today and weekend, much of the state watches on, waiting for a substantial break in what is becoming a potentially damaging dry spell.
May’s statewide average fell more than 40 per cent short of usual levels. Dubbo has recorded no rainfall so far for June, and only five millimetres for the month of May.
The situation comes as Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) announced on Wednesday it expected winter crop production to drop by 33pc in 2017–18 to 40.1 million tonnes, due largely to an assumed fall in average yields.
According to the Australian crop report, the season opening was mixed, with total area planted to winter crops forecast to fall by around 1 per cent in 2017–18 to 22.5 million hectares.
Acting ABARES Executive Director, Peter Gooday, said that with the expected falls in average yields, wheat production is forecast to fall by 31pc to 24.2 million tonnes and barley is tipped to decrease by 39 per cent to 8.1 million tonnes.
Walton Rural agronomist Dean Walton, Dubbo, said that the lack of rainfall has been “extremely frustrating” for farmers desperate to sow winter crops.
“Most of my clients dry sowed in preparation for the forecast rain event in May, but the rain just never came. It left them high and dry, that crop is still sitting in the ground.
“Around 60-70 per cent of the crop has been sown, but only 30-40pc of that has got out of the ground.
“A lot of people aren’t prepared to continue dry sowing, because there is just no forecast for moisture, some blokes aren’t sowing at all, because the sub soil moisture is just too far down. Unfortunately, the damage is already done in some areas.”
The town of Collarenebri has recorded less than 4mm since the beginning of May.
B and W Rural senior agronomist, Ben Dawson, Collarenebri, said the patchiness of the rain has left some areas in a healthy position for winter crops, while others are struggling.
“It’s almost the middle of June and still only about 30pc of the area has been planted, and that is in marginal moisture country,” he said. “Wheat and chickpeas and a bit of barely is already planted.”
Heavy rainfall in the north of the state has also wreaked havoc with winter crops.