Cropping bonanza

Sandy Day with Luna Vincent, 11, and John Vincent, 8, sowing canola at their farm, Yirri, north of Lockhart. Photo: Claire Williams.

The Narrandera district has already exceeded its total rainfall for 2019 and is on the way to bank rolling one of the biggest winter crops seen in years.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Narrandera has received 243.8mm so far this year, with 198.8mm falling in the first three months of the year. The biggest daily total was March 5 with 71mm. This compares to a total of 239.6mm for the entire 2019.

Anzac Day is the traditional start to the winter cropping season, with plenty of diesel burnt in the shire sowing cereal, oilseed and pulse crops. Grazing cereals were sown on the early rains and are now loaded up with stock while producers have been able to lamb down on fresh lucerne stands.

Barellan farmer Doug McDonald, McDonald Farming, said the sowing season had been “textbook cropping”, with more country planted to crop than normal. The family sowed 200ha of oats on March 8 and has grazed them the past fortnight with sheep. Grazing wheat and canola was also sown on time.

“We’ve had about 160mm for the year all up but west of us has had up to 400mm,” Mr McDonald said. “Our soil moisture is good – we need another 10-12mm to wet the top profile again.

“It appears all the country which missed out on the rainfall last year north of Barellan and towards Tallimba and Ungarie have had very big rains – it has turned around for them.

“Weed control has been a big issue – a lot of people couldn’t get chemical. It has been a good chance to clean up weeds with country going into wheat and barley sprayed three times.”

Mr McDonald said the good season may be soured by growing mice and locust damage with mice baiting underway.

Elders Narrandera agronomist David Coddington said wheat and barley had increased in favour of the riskier canola and lupin crops.

“Everything is growing well – just add moisture and temperature, and everything grows,” Mr Coddington said. “Lucerne has a jump on, a lot of winter pasture and clover – it is one of the best starts to the season we have ever had.

“The downside is the supply lull of chemicals with northern NSW firing at the same time. “A good autumn break means everything as far as establishing early grazing crops and pastures.

“There may be some opportunity cropping in barley and wheat rather than the riskier crops of canola and lupins.”

Mr Coddington said wheat and barley sowings would step up following the wet weather expected this week. He confirmed mice activity further south and is advising growers to keep an eye out.

In some areas throughout the Lockhart region the years total of 200-250mm contrasts with the 50mm recorded this time last year. The early season break has many growers planting grazing and early season cereals and canola.

Boree Creek AGnVET agronomist Will Lane has noticed the early rainfall has instilled confidence in many growers.

“Everyone is really happy with how the crops are going in. Some older farmers in the area say this is best autumn break they have ever seen,” Mr Lane said.

Because of the excellent conditions, many growers are also looking at planting main season crops earlier than the traditional Anzac Day sowing date.

“Growers are wanting to capitalise on the good sowing conditions,” Mr Lane said.

A lot of growers had planned to grow none or very few hectares of canola this year. However, the recent rainfall has encouraged some farmers to increase canola in their rotations.

After such a dry summer, sheep graziers are starting to see good regeneration in their pastures and subsequent increased lambing and scanning percentages. Many farmers in the Lockhart region have gone two years without a significant harvest. A lot of growers have had to make hay at harvest time in order maintain profitability of their business.

Local grower Sandy Day is looking forward to a good growing season and hopefully a profitable harvest come November.

“After a couple of years of making hay, we are hoping for a good year so we can put the header back in the paddock,” Mr Day said.

Without being too optimistic, Mr Day is maintaining his planned rotation but is sowing some mid-season canola a little early to make the most of the good conditions. The rainfall has varied across Mr Day’s property, however he is satsified with the moisture in his paddocks and is hopeful for a good cropping season.

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