Yarrawonga received the lowest rainfall for June since records began in 1879 with only 2mm registering in the Bureau of Meteorology rain gauge.
This amount was made up by nine lots of incremental precipitation over the course of the month, mostly coming in 0.2mm falls with Tuesday, June 27 recording the most rain at just 0.4mm.
This lack of rainfall however has not ‘dampened’ the confidence of growers in the area, with Telford farmer Craig Prescott telling the Chronicle it was the solid rain recorded in the first week of July which was the “real game changer for the farming community”.
“Added to this is the Bureau saying the En Niño is breaking down and against all adds, the world wheat price has smashed all markets to see an amazing rise out of the blue,” Craig said.
“A week is a long time in farming.
“In context an inch in the middle of winter doesn’t make or break a season, the vital months are September and October but it would be true to say the level of farmer confidence is very positive compared to a short time ago.”
Michelle Pardy from Riverine Plains Inc agreed the rainfall last week was certainly welcomed, though she said areas further north didn’t receive quite as much as Yarrawonga did.
“It was timely, coming after an extended
period of dry weather and a run of quite heavy frosts,” Michelle said.
“The frosts themselves didn’t cause much physical damage to crops but certainly slowed down plant growth and made it more difficult to time effective herbicide applications.”
According to Michelle the dry conditions over June also meant very little in-crop fertiliser had been applied before now as rain was needed to wash fertiliser (urea) into the soil so it becomes available to plants.
“Therefore this recent rain meant grain farmers could make some inroads into their in-crop fertiliser programs,” she said.
“The end of the season is a long way off and while we have good subsoil moisture as a result of last year’s rain, more in-crop rain will be needed to ensure fertiliser programs progress as planned and that crops yield to potential.
“In summary, most growers would probably be reasonably comfortable with the start of the season but will look to see how the season unfolds, in terms of the timing and amount of future rainfall, when considering their in-crop management decisions.”
In terms of canola, Dr Steve Marcroft from Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) said season 2017 was producing mixed fortunes in terms of diseases.
Dr Marcroft, an oilseeds disease expert, said while the risk of blackleg disease had reduced with the lack of consistent rainfall in many parts of the region, there had been an increased incidence of canola white leaf spot.
“Growers of canola are therefore being advised to take a considered approach to disease management this year,” he said.
“Blackleg likes continual wet conditions for spore release and germination, which is why blackleg severity on seedlings was so high in 2016.
“In contrast, a large area of southern Australia has received rainfall in only a couple of major rain events, and conditions have remained dry between these events.
“Consequently, blackleg lesions are only starting to occur now.”
Dr Marcroft advised if crops were already past the vulnerable seeding stage (1-4 leaf) and had no or few lesions, these crops most likely would not develop severe crown canker and therefore may not benefit from a foliar fungicide application.
“However, if a crop was sown later, has a moderately susceptible (MS) or lower blackleg rating and is currently still in the vulnerable seedling stage, it may develop severe crown canker and therefore benefit from a foliar fungicide application,” Dr Marcroft said.
“Growers should monitor crops for blackleg lesions on the first four leaves, estimate the potential crop yield and decide if it economical to protect the crop.
“If growers are unsure about the blackleg severity on their crop and the potential yield, they can wait until the 8-9 leaf growth stage and then make a disease management decision.”