Farmers have eyes on sky as El Nino looms

Farmers in the region will be hoping for some substantial rainfall in the next late summer/early autumn period, with parts of Australia heading towards a dry winter.

Forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology suggest that the current La Nina weather pattern has peaked, with Australia likely to be engulfed by a neutral climate pattern towards the middle of the year.

La Nina usually brings more consistent rainfalls, but with the land in the Dubbo region already parched the need for some solid precipitation before El Nino takes over is intensified.

“Things are pretty crispy at the moment, and the biggest problem is a lack of subsoil moisture,” agronomist Glenn Shepherd from Imag Consulting said.

“Last year was exceptionally dry but there was that moisture underground that helped the crops get in. This year we’ve had a bit of early summer rain but not really anything of note since, and it has been quite hot.

“At the moment we’ve got paddock feed getting short so for the grazers they would like to see some rain before the end of March so they can get growth before things start turning cold.

“Some farmers are supplementary feeding at the moment. It’s hard to get rid of stock at the moment, particularly sheep, because prices are so good.

“Wool is phenomenal right now and there is money in them if you can keep them long enough to get to the shearing stage.”

For those intending to plant crops, the immediate need for rain isn’t as strong.

But Mr Shepherd said the longer we go without substantial falls, the more farmers will need to change their cropping plans.

“Things can change obviously but if we were to get nothing of note between now and mid-late March then the farmers who were planning to crop canola might have to switch back to wheat or barley, which doesn’t need to go in as early,” he said.

“They can have until mid-April and still have time to get something in, but if it’s the middle of May and we haven’t had much then we start to run into some big problems.”

“The problem is with the El Nino prediction it really is hard at the moment to see where a good fall is going to come from.

“There have been some isolated storms around, but they are very isolated.

“You can be in one place that has had a good, quick downpour but half-a-mile up the road they have had nothing.”