PRODUCERS received some much needed relief over the weekend when rains broke a recent dry spell that was spelling disaster for grain crop yields leading into summer.
NSW Department of Primary Industries grain services technical specialist Peter Matthews said long-term rainfall in the Central Tablelands had slipped back in the last two months to below average.
He said the weekend’s rain would provide relief for the next seven to 10 days for growers in what is a critical stage for most grain crops especially canola.
“What we’ve seen in September up to date in Orange is about 18 per cent of its long term average for rainfall,” he said.
“It’s a dramatic shift in the rainfall pattern.
“This weekend was a critical point for most growers.”
About 46 millimetres of rain fell in Orange on the weekend.
Wheat is the most planted crop in the Orange region, followed by canola and to a lesser extent barley, oats, lupins, field peas and triticale.
Mr Matthews said without the rain over the weekend crops in the region would have started to stress and potential yield would have been lost.
“Through July we were pretty much running to average long-term rainfall which was good and then through August for Orange we went back to about 35 per cent of our long- term rainfall, Cudal about 36 per cent and Manildra about 38 per cent,” he said.
“That’s a big drop-off given we had a good start to the year.”
Mr Matthew’s said spring had been forecast to be on the dryer side after the well above long-term average rainfall through late summer and early autumn and the average and above winter rainfall.
“We’ve come into spring with reasonable soil moisture reserves in August and early September but the crops now are fast exhausting them,” he said.
Canola and early cereal crops copped a battering from frost in the first week of September, Mr Matthews said, especially in low-lying areas.
“Some crops have been affected by frost up to 50 per cent,” he said.
“That’s a significant loss for a grower ... they should be out there checking them for damage.
“[Frost] freezes the plant and whatever tissue is frozen is killed, it either kills the flowers or the seed and developing pods.”
Mr Matthews said growers have to decide if they want to put more money into damaged crops or choose to bail them for stock feed.
The central west contributes about 35 per cent of the state’s total crop output.
Mr Matthews said canola crop planting had increased dramatically across the state with high prices driven by the international market.
“Early on canola was priced well-above what wheat was in terms of returns that’s why the big planting,” he said.