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Eyre Peninsula farmers put faith in late rain after dry June, as they face prospect of financial losses

By Ruby Jones, Wednesday July 5, 2017 - 18:40 EST
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Grain farmer Mark Modra has had to hold off sowing after a record dry June in South Australia. - ABC

The driest June on record in South Australia has forced grain farmer Mark Modra to rethink the crops on his Eyre Peninsula property.

Usually preferring canola, this year he has switched to wheat and barley, which are more robust but lower value.

The fields that last year were lush and flowering today are brown and dry, with Mr Modra holding off sowing some of his crops in the hope of rain.

"This is the driest I have ever seen it," he said.

"I never thought I would be sowing my crops in July ... it's very unusual for a reliable district like Cummins."

His patience has been rewarded, with a parched June giving way to a slight sprinkle this week, which was a welcome sight.

"The rain we have had overnight was just wonderful," he said.

"We've had 20mm on this place and that is more than what we have had in the last two-and-a-half months.

"I think you could call it the break of the season for us."

Climatologist Darren Ray said patches of agricultural land across South Australia had experienced their driest June on record.

"Particularly on the southern half of the Eyre Peninsula, they have seen large areas of lowest on record June rainfall," Mr Ray said.

This week's welcome showers are predicted to stick around, he said.

"We are looking at probably something in the order of 10mm to 30mm over the next week or so.

"I think could be very useful to crops."

There are concerns the rain could be too little, too late, with farmers facing the prospect of losing money on this year's crops.

That is especially a concern for farmers like Mr Modra who have held off sowing and switched crops, according to Grain Farmers Association chief executive Darren Arney.

"The financial impact of not having as much crop ... means that there is potential for a below cost of production year," Mr Arney said.

"That will draw down on finances and farmers will need to look at how they go about sourcing additional funds."

For every day that Mr Modra held off sowing, he lost about 28 kilograms of grain, which adds up to $200,000 lost so far.

"Everyday you miss out more," he said.

More water for Barossa winemakers in $11m irrigation plan

The dry start to winter has also rattled winemakers, James Rosenzweig from Rosenvale Vineyards said.

"We are starting to get a bit of rain this week and if we can have that for another month or so, until the end of August that will set us up for a very good vintage," he said.

Winemakers in the Barossa will have access to an extra three gigalitres of water by the end of next year, under an $11 million scheme announced by the State Government.

Two major pipelines and a pump station will be upgraded as part of the project, which will allow more water to be moved from the River Murray to the Barossa.


© ABC 2017

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