Worse than an El Nino

CONCERNS: Ron Trewick is enjoying a solid season at his Elmore property, but farmers to the west desperately need rain. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

CONCERNS: Ron Trewick is enjoying a solid season at his Elmore property, but farmers to the west desperately need rain. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

THE dry August could have impacted the central Victorian cropping region more than an El Nino weather event over the summer, the Birchip Cropping Group says.

Almost every region experienced far below the average rain for August, which, when coupled with early rains, could have created the perfect storm.

Charlton received just 7mm for the month, most of which was recorded between July 31 and August 1. The area's average is 35mm.

Boort received 6mm and conditions have become more challenging progressively westward into the Mallee.

This dry August has reduced yield potential more than what an El Nino summer would. - De-Anne Ferrier, BCG

The figures placed the month in the bottom 10 per cent for rain for most regional centres west of Bendigo.

BCG research and extension officer De-Anne Ferrier said the ideal start to the season had exacerbated the dry conditions.

"This year, we had the ideal start," she said.

"We had a warm, wet May which greatly assisted in early germination.

"In hindsight, it was probably too early. We saw a lot of biomass early and green crops."

Crops were entering the critical fertilisation stage and would begin to dry out, requiring at least 2mm of rain a day to replace the lost moisture.

Mrs Ferrier said growers made the right decision earlier in the season and could not have expected the dry conditions during winter months.

"Bottom leaves have dropped off and crops are no longer that vibrant green that we saw earlier in the season," she said.

"We just really need decent rain.

"Areas received the required 2mm on Monday, but they need that much each day.

"This dry August has reduced yield potential more than what an El Nino summer would."

Frost had also been an issue during winter, although those who sowed later survived that period.

While areas extending to the west and north-west of Bendigo are bracing for severely impacted yields, farmers to the north and north-east expect a reasonable season.

Elmore cropper Darren Trewick said the area had good subsoil moisture.

"We are tracking really well," he said.

"At this time of year, between 24mm and 48mm wouldn't go astray.

"The rainfall earlier this week could see us through to next week when they are expecting more rainfall."

Mr Trewick said most farmers around Elmore were expecting solid yields, but not a bumper crop.

He expected to begin harvesting in early October.

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