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Warm May has SA farmers looking skyward

Wednesday May 8, 2013 - 12:17 EST
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Warm and dry weather in South Australia leaves farmers praying for some rain - ABC

Farmers across South Australia are waiting and hoping for rain which is forecast for the weekend.

Hot and dry conditions in many areas have forced a halt to seeding.

Eyre Peninsula agronomist Ron Simpson said about 20 millimetres of rain would be helpful.

He said some farmers on lower parts of the peninsula were keen to see more sub-soil moisture.

"There's no sense of desperation out there just yet but I reckon if you give it another week and we miss the rainfall event this weekend and go into some warm weather next week I think there'd be some stress starting to appear on a few faces," he said.

Mr Simpson said warmer temperatures meant some crops which had been sown dry were germinating, but so were weeds.

"The problem with it is that those weeds may look small on top but they've got big root systems which are really dragging moisture out," he said.

"It makes the weeds tougher to kill because they're a little bit hardier, they've been knocked around a bit, so there's a bit more reliance on heavier rates of the knock-down herbicides."

Records set

Climatologist Blair Trewin said it had been the warmest start to May in South Australia since 2002.

"If you're comparing averages for the first week of May, May 2002 was warmer than this May has been so far," he said.

"But this time around it looks like the warm conditions are going to continue until about the 11th of May, so [they are] lasting longer."

Mr Trewin said some outback areas had set temperature records for the time of year.

"Marree and Tarcoola have both got up to around 34 [degrees Celsius] so that's something we haven't seen before in May and a bit further north, Oodnadatta, they're now up to seven days in a row over 30, which is a record for May and they look like stretching that run to 10 or 11 days," he said.

Dry conditions in many parts of Australia have forced up fodder prices by as much as 40 per cent, as livestock and dairy farmers prepare for winter.

Parts of South Australia, Victoria and southern Queensland are facing the biggest shortages, with some regions having less than half the feed they had last year.

Caitlin Schofield, from the Australian Fodder Industry Association, said many farmers were holding on to feed as they prepared for possible drought conditions.

- Additional reporting by ABC Rural


© ABC 2013

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