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New South Wales' winter crops need more rain

Alex Blucher, Friday July 18, 2014 - 11:38 EST
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DPI NSW Seasonal update reveals lower than average rainfall in the state's north and low stock water levels - ABC

The Department of Primary Industries' latest New South Wales seasonal update shows more rainfall is needed over the next two months for winter crop growth, particularly in the north of the state.

The seasonal conditions report shows rainfall has been well below average in the north and northern coastal regions, and average over the rest of state.

DPI's Seasonal Conditions Co-ordinator Ian McGowen says that farmers have seen some of the best and worst conditions ever.

"At this stage crop conditions are good in the south and reasonable to good in central areas, but poor in areas of the north where crops have been sown - mostly east of the Newell Highway and in the Liverpool Plains areas," Mr McGowen said.

"For certain areas of NSW we've seen an excellent season, particularly in the south and moving through to the central areas of the state and we've had continued rain up until this point.

"Conditions have been fairly good in the central west in terms of rainfall, there's some very useful rain that's been had in areas like Dubbo, Trangie and also further south," he said.

Mr McGowan says it's a different story in the north west which has missed out on the good rain, and the north coast regions as well.

"Those [coastal] areas unfortunately have missed out quite a bit in terms of rainfall over the last three to six months and they are sitting in the lowest ten per cent of years relative to historical records," Mr McGowan says.

"Unfortunately this has been a particularly difficult season for people on the coast, anywhere from about the mid-north coast running through the Hunter and right up to the far north coast and extending westwards to the northern tablelands, things have been very tough over the last three to six months in that area," he said.

The bright spots have been in the southern and central west cropping regions.

"Particularly the east of Murray and Riverina Local Land Services district, the conditions there have been excellent.

"Hopefully if we get some continued rainfall over the next couple of months that would mean that crop production in those areas would be excellent," he said.

Frost in areas around the state has slowed the growth of crops and pastures.

"We've noticed very, very slow growth particularly in the last month in the coastal areas moving east towards to the coastal strip it's better, but the frost has certainly slowed pasture growth.

"In some areas of the state, particularly those areas that didn't get a good start or a late start they are now going through a 'green drought.'

"You've got areas in the northern tablelands that are extremely low in growth, of course the drought-affected areas in the north of the state, but also some areas in the west of the Riverina are suffering from those conditions as well," Mr McGowen said.

Groundcover, pasture growth and sub soil moisture levels are varied across the state, but stock water levels remain low in the majority of NSW.

"Some areas are good, but some areas do have very severe problems with stock water, the north west obviously have some of the worst problems.

"But we are seeing areas right through to the far north east of the state from about Moree or Narrabri to the coast, particularly the lower north coast, there are pockets in there which have had very, very low run off over the last two years and that is showing itself in stock water supplies,"Mr McGowen said.

Mr McGowen said that the seasonal outlook for the State is for generally drier conditions over the next few months.

"While the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral, we are seeing a continued 70 per cent chance of a moderate El Niño event occurring during spring, with drier and warmer than normal conditions likely between July and September across most of the state," Mr McGowen says.

"The chances of exceeding median rainfall are less than 20 per cent in July, with somewhat below average pasture growth likely across most of NSW between July and September."

However Mr McGowen noted that there has been some cooling in the sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific, meaning the chances of a strong El Niño event have been reduced.


© ABC 2014

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