Dry spell hits

April 14, 2018

A hot and dry start to the year could soon take its toll on the region’s productive sector if long-range rain forecasts do not eventuate.

While Elders Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo said the conditions have mainly had a positive effect on the end stages of summer crops, continued dry conditions could erode confidence for planting in the next production season.

The concern comes on the back of Bureau of Meteorology data which showed only 2.8mm of rain fell in Deniliquin last month, well short of the long-term average of 31.9mm.

It has also been a year of heat extremes, with Wednesday’s top temperature the highest in April since the BoM’s records began in 1858.

‘‘People are going to be more hesitant to plant their crops if the rain doesn’t come in late April to early May,’’ Mr Dellwo said.

‘‘If the rain doesn’t start until June or July, yield loss from late planting is a possibility.

‘‘If the the rain hangs off till June it’s not ideal, but for the moment there is no panic.

‘‘So far for the summer crop harvest it (the lack of rain) is a positive.

‘‘However, for dryland croppers it could be a different story.’’

Mr Dellwo said long range forecasts show Deniliquin and district should still receive enough rain to reach near the average yearly rainfall, which the BoM records as 407.7mm for Deniliquin, but said it might come later than needed.

‘‘April is always a dry month but the long range forecasts have said it will be a later than usual break.

‘‘It is expected to be a very cold winter but the rain is expected to break through by at least June.

‘‘The main issue is that if we don’t get rain in the hills then we won’t get the in-flows we need with our water allocation.’’

Murray Valley Private Diverters chair and Barham landholder John Lolicato agreed the region is ‘‘overdue for a wet cycle’’, but said in terms of water allocations to grow food it’s ‘‘not looking too flash’’.

Murray Valley irrigators currently only have access to 51 per cent of the general security water entitlements.

The April allocation announcement is expected to be made on Monday, but due to limited inflows into storages Mr Lolicato said if there is an increase next week it is unlikely to be significant.

Mr Lolicato said it will have a significant impact on the amount of water that can be carried over for the 2018-2019 rice season.

he said unless there is adequate rainfall over the winter period and leadign into summer, the next rice crop will be severly impacted.

‘‘Having a low allocation will be a struggle, and because it is so dry the productive sector will likely use all of the water it has if we don’t have more rain or inflows,’’ he said.

‘‘It means there will be limited opportunity for carryover into next year, due to competition for the reduced amount of resource that will be available.

‘‘At this stage (looking at the conditions and potential inflows) we’ll be starting the next rice season with a zero allocation and without carryover it will be hard to plan for a rice crop unless we get those winter inflows. That planning window is rom about August, with planting in September and October.

‘‘If we don’t get that wet winter we can probably expect for rice cropping to be reduced, however there are some new varieties that do allow for late sowing in Spetember and October. Although, if you leave it too late yield will b compromised.’’

Only three other years since the turn of the millennium have delivered lower rainfall than in March than this year.

Only 1.8mm was delivered in March 2004 and no rain was recorded in March 2003. In more recent years, only 2mm was recorded in March 2016. In terms of the heat, Wednesday’s top temperature of 38.4°C is the fourth highest in recordable history.

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