Weather News

Rain across NSW will boost grain harvest but risk of frost, storms lie ahead

By David Claughton and Michael Condon, Tuesday September 22, 2020 - 16:51 EST
ABC image
Massive rain cloud at Cumborah in NSW. - ABC

Big crops hang in the balance — after some achingly bad drought years and with heavy debts, some New South Wales grain farmers need more rain.

Until last weekend grain growers were looking anxiously at the skies: Fortunately most of their prayers were answered.

Welcome rain

Up to 30mm fell in grain growing areas boosting the yields of crops — that already looked good.

Department of Primary Industry crop specialist Don McCaffery said overall the rain was very welcome but they needed more.

"I think it going to be a good year," Mr McCaffery said.

"I've heard growers say they needed another 50-75mm, so we still need rain in early October to finish crops in the northwest."

He estimated the wheat yield will be 10 million tonnes, but could end up even bigger as long as frost damage was kept to a minimum and rain did not affect the harvest.

Walgett receives desperately needed rain

While some parts of the state, like the south coast, remain dry, farmers in the north west have had some relief.

Greg Weber in Walgett was desperate for rain to finish his wheat, chick peas and barley and needs another 50mm before harvest, but he has had a few modest falls each month.

"Everybody's quite happy and hoping that Mother Nature is kind to us during the harvest," Mr Weber said.

In Warialda farmer Amy Grabham said there had been no measurable rain this month and very little for August, and properties from her farm north to the Queensland border have missed out.

"Our crops are dying and we look to not harvest much at all at this rate.

"Cattle are still away on agistment, there is still supplementary feeding going on and water being carted."

Hail decimates Riverina's bumper crops

A hail storm swept through farming country south of Junee in the Riverina on Monday.

Junee agronomist and farmer Angus Knight said while his property escaped relatively unscathed by the storm, his neighbours crops were damaged.

"Our neighbours had beautiful crops that were decimated, they were stripped right back and looked like a mulcher had gone right over the top of them," Mr Knight said.

Mr Knight said about 10 farms had been impacted by the hail storm which was about one kilometre wide and snaked across 15 kilometres of country from west of Junee to Harefield in the east.

Wheat, barley and canola crops were battered by the hail which was about the size of a 20 cent coin.

"Even pastures and the grass on the sides of roads was chewed up — it looked like someone had taken a whipper snipper to them," Mr Knight said.

The storm brought with it about 20 to 30mm of rain.

"Like many parts of the state we were having a bumper season and these were wheat crops that were probably going to yield six tonnes to a hectare and canola crops that could have gone close to 3t/ha," Mr Knight said.

"It will be very hard for the canola to recover and the cereal crops may get some regrowth from late tillers, but those yields will be brought right back."

Mr Knight said fortunately most growers had their crops insured.

"While people are emotionally distraught as they have worked really hard to get these crops to where they are, they are insured so it's not going to be a total train wreck," he said.

With harvest due to begin in northwest NSW in late October, another drop of rain would be welcome, provided frosts and hail are not part of the package.

Additional reporting by Amelia Bernasconi, Cara Jeffery and Lucy Thackray.


© ABC 2020

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