Dubbo remains in drought, farmers weigh up sowing, livestock management decisions

A NSW Department of Primary Industries system indicates a large part of Dubbo Regional Council is in drought.
A NSW Department of Primary Industries system indicates a large part of Dubbo Regional Council is in drought.

Farmers in the Orana region and their counterparts across the state are facing tough decisions about whether to sow winter crops as dry conditions continue.

The lack of general rainfall in March is also bringing more challenges to those with livestock.

Dubbo has had a meagre 41.8 mm in 2018, most of which hit the soil in January, Bureau of Meteorology data shows.

The latest seasonal update from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has shown only areas of the north and east of the state received reasonable rainfall during March as more areas of the Hunter, Central West, Central Tablelands and Far West tipped into drought.

The update is linked to the DPI’s recently released Enhanced Drought Indicator System (EDIS).

NSW DPI climate applications and digital agriculture leader Dr Anthony Clark said dry conditions had left pasture base in very poor condition across the affected areas.

“During March rainfall ranged from 5 mm to 100 mm across most of the state,” Dr Clark said.

“Large areas of the Western, Central West, Riverina and Murray regions received less than 10 mm.

“Despite good falls of rain in parts of the north-east Hunter, this area remains in drought watch, while the western area that missed the high rainfall remains in drought.”

Dr Clark said with the expansion of the area under drought watch in March, and the main sowing time approaching for winter crops, DPI was continuing to monitor agronomic indicators closely.

“NSW is at a higher state of alert than in February, and if dry conditions persist throughout the remainder of the critical autumn window, there will be a major negative impact on cropping and livestock sector production for 2018,” Dr Clark said.

“In March and early April, rainfall and soil moisture levels across inland NSW were generally insufficient to allow the sowing and establishment of late maturing dual purpose winter grazing crops.”