Too dry to sow and grow: farmers brace as lack of rain cuts crops | Photos

Up to almost a third of winter cropping in the Central West and north-western NSW has not been sown due to lack of rainfall.

Last year the state’s wheat and barley crops together had a gross value product of $3.3 billion, the Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) latest estimates showed.

But the 2017 harvest may not match it if conditions remain dry.

The DPI reports the state’s winter crop is suffering from lack of rain.

Many areas in the Central West had not been able to complete winter crop sowing programs, with up to 30 per cent of the area’s planned winter program not sown due to lack of rainfall, DPI technical specialist grain services Peter Matthews said.

Some options for farmers remained. Fallow paddocks could be planted to summer crops if average rainfall occurred in late winter and early spring, Mr Matthews said.

Or they could be carried over for the 2018 winter crop program, he said.

Some farmers had struck better conditions in autumn.

Early sown wheat and canola crops were handling the dry conditions, but had reduced early crop growth and tillering, with rain needed now to maintain current yield potentials.

“Canola sown on time is now flowering, but later crops will struggle to produce sufficient biomass before the budding stage,” Mr Matthews said.

For some crops, prospects of harvest are already declining.

“Later sown wheat and barley crops are struggling to get going, given the lack of rainfall,” Mr Matthews said.

“Some of these crops may not continue if we don’t receive rainfall shortly, with growers likely to look at the option to graze out failing crops.”

Statewide, freezing temperatures were also biting.

“In addition to the lack of rain, near record frosts across NSW in the last week have dramatically slowed crop growth and robbed much-needed top soil moisture,” Mr Matthews said.

The number of frosts and how hot it became would decide how long the crops would survive without rain, Mr Dixon said.

“We need 25-50mm across the board soon, which doesn’t look promising,” he said.