Widespread rainfall ranging from 50 to 100 millimetres across the North West Slopes and Plains and the Central West will jangle the nerves of some farmers with the challenge of getting the remainder of their winter crops in the ground before the mid-June window of opportunity closes.
Walgett agronomist for AMPS, Greg Rummery, said 100mm of rain in his district would present many challenges to those farmers waiting for their paddocks to dry out. But those who have planted crops like canola, faba beans and varieties of early long-season wheat will be encouraged by the mid-May deluge.
Mr Rummery said the impact of La Nina had ensured there were full profiles of moisture right across the region.
However, this exacerbated the impact of last week's falls, preventing any rain from soaking in. the result is water laying on paddocks and slowly running off, he said.
"Certainly, there will be paddocks that won't be planted unless the country drys out before mid-June," Mr Rummery said.
"Any of the early-sown crops with their head above the water will develop good secondary root systems and will be able to go right through to harvest," he said.
"If we get three to four weeks of fine weather, we will be back in the game. The forecast for the next 10 days is promising, but if the forecast in a fortnight is adverse, there will be some worried cropper.
"Certainly, some paddocks just won't get planted, but there are options into the future with those levels of soil moisture."
He said the summer rainfall had been a boon for dryland cotton crops brown in the Walgett Shire and with picking in full swing, the best of these crops are returning up to six bales a hectare.
Somerton mixed farmer Scott Doyle, Olinga, estimates he has five days to a week before getting back on his ground. Mr Doyle planted 121 hectares of canola before the rain, and it was "getting its head above the water".
When the paddocks dry, he will put his "new, secondhand" air seeder into gear and plant a further 121ha of durum and 162ha of bread wheat.
Mr Doyle said the decision to invest in a wider planter from the Condobolin district was partly driven by the need to get over his country more efficiently and difficulty finding casual staff when the need was greatest. He is optimistic about his winter crop prospects even though his input costs are markedly higher.
"Last year, we were paying $600 a tonne for urea; this year, the price is $1500/t," he said.
A knock-down spray on his paddocks for the wheat and durum planting will be the first job to hand when the ground allows it, and a meeting with his agronomist would be the key to deciding on what to use.
Tamworth-based agronomist, Hayden Hollis, Agricore, said planting windows of opportunity would be stretched to the maximum after the rainfalls.
He said farmers were still planting canola and harvesting summer crops like cotton and sorghum harvest are being pushed back.
"Farmers in the state's south yet to plant their wheat crops should be fine," Mr Hollis said. "But in the Central West, it's still very wet and some farmers might be starting to consider aerial seeding. "It will also depend on how much rain falls in the forecast for next week.
Nutrien's Narrabri agronomist Dylan Verriers said the rain had impacted the summer crop harvest.
"I would say about 80 per cent of the sorghum is now off, but only a third of the cotton crop has been picked," he said. "Of the cotton picked, it's mostly dryland cotton, which has done really well. This season has been the biggest dryland cotton planting in 11 years in the Narrabri region.
"The yields have been good with 4.5 bales to the hectare at the low end and up to eight bales/ha. Pressure from sucking pests has been low, and whitefly has been almost non-existent due to the cooler summer."
Mr Verriers said adding all these factors together and growers would "see some crazy gross margins".
He conceded that farmers were reluctant to consider another chickpea planting as their silos and storage sheds were still heavily stocked with surplus legumes.
Fallowing country through the winter, conserving moisture, and aiming for another good summer crop might be the best option rather than fighting with rapidly closing planting windows.
Rainfall totals for the week up to May 19 (in millimetres): Brewarrina 52.4, Collarenebri (Dunumbral) 100.2, Angeldool Station 95.6, Byrock (Knightvale) 86.4, Gilgandra 43, Quambone Station 53, Coonamble Airport 63.2, Cobar 50.4, West Wyalong Airport AWS 62, Condobolin Airport 71.2, Trundle 46.6, Girilambone 84.8, Weemelah 93, Ivanhoe Aerodrome AWS 33.6, Wee Waa 66.4, Garah 63, Moree 57.2, Barraba 79.5, Inverell Research Centre 65.8, Gunnedah Airport AWS 42, Bingara 66, Delungra 60.2, Temora Airport 62.4, Yanco Ag Institute 40, Hillston (Aldinga) 36.2, Orange Agricultural Institute 40.2, Delungra 60.2, and Quirindi 37.2.
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