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NSW crops desperate for rain as big dry stretches on

Michael Condon and Joshua Becker, Thursday September 21, 2017 - 15:30 EST
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Livestock grazing in dry conditions. - ABC

Three months of below average rain across large swathes of New South Wales is resulting in a continued downgrading of crops.

Many agronomists now believe that 40 per cent of the yield potential has now been lost with the situation compounded by widespread frosts in many regions.

Cowra agronomist Peter Watt of Elders said crops in his region were just holding on.

"We need rain for some of our farmers to get out of jail this year," he said.

"Unfortunately, the forecast is for extremely hot conditions coming up over the weekend and that is the last thing we need.

"What has probably saved many farmers in this region is the fact they are not just cropping but they have sheep and cattle providing them with income from meat and wool."

Northern crops hit hardest

Further north of Cowra, between Narromine and Warren, the situation is even more desperate.

Agronomist with Muldoon Pratten, Ryan Pratten, said a lot of crops were beyond saving and most likely would be used as animal fodder.



"Lack of rainfall since March, an exceptionally dry winter, and a series of frosts have really knocked the crops around here," he said.

"It is still unknown how much damage the frost has done to the wheat crops and it will be two weeks before we can quantify it.

"Further north, around Walgett, the situation is even worse and many did not even bother to sow a crop this year."

Tony Lockrey, agronomist in the Moree and Narrabri district, said they were really struggling with barley, canola, and wheat crops all under huge pressure.

He said they were going backwards rapidly after a challenging year right from the start.

"Some of the best margins of returns are on paddocks where nothing was planted as the costs were kept way down," he said.

"Many of the failed crops are now being used as cattle feed as they are not worth harvesting."

Worthless crops to become fodder for animals

The parlous nature of the crops in NSW should come as no surprise.

A found Australia had experienced the hottest winter on record across the nation.

It has also been one of the driest, with average maximum temperatures up to two degrees Celsius higher than usual.

The report shows that this year's winter had seen 260 individual records broken for record daytime temperatures and low rainfall.

The Council's Professor Lesley Hughes said statistically, this was 60 times more likely to be because of climate change and global warming and that warm weather would now be the norm.

"Farmers are bearing the brunt of these extreme weather conditions and NSW is copping it this year in particular," she said.

"We know that farmers are great adapters [at] choosing different varieties: earlier harvesting, changing sowing times and trying different types of crops.

"However, many experts are asking just how much more farmers can adapt and still stay profitable?

"The other belief is that the new warmer, drier, winters are the norm rather than the exception."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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