By HARRY CLARKE
CREEKS and rivers continue to run across Queensland’s upper Murray Darling catchment and dams are all but full after pleasing amounts of rain across the region over March.
The summer season wasn’t ideal for dry land crops, but recent downfalls in excess of 100mm in parts of the Western Downs and South West has created optimism for farmers ahead of the dryer months.
Topping the list for seven-day rainfall during the first month of Autumn, according to rain gauge aggregator Oz Forecast, was Wieambilla east of Condamine with 147mm. There were reports of similar downfalls around Jandowae.
Nearby Warra and Hopeland received just shy of 100mm while further west, Roma, Mitchell, and Surat all exceeded 120mm. That rain filled Beardmore Dam at St George, giving growers along the Balonne River another year’s irrigation.
St George cotton grower Tim McDonald (pictured above with wife Fiona and daughter Harriet) said farmers in the region were relishing another good downfall following last year’s Balonne River flood.
“It’s been a massive turn around,” Mr McDonald said. “In 2019 we had about three inches for the year. Last year we had 22 inches and this year’s been good again.”
“It provides us with water security for next year. We know we’re going to get some cotton in the ground and we can plan financially. Everyone’s pretty happy.
“All the cotton’s looking good so we’re expecting pretty good yield. A bit of fine weather over the next couple of months to get all the picking done would be ideal.”
Rabobank analysts have estimated the national cotton yield to be as high as 2.5 million bales – a four-fold increase on last year’s crop.
Rabobank data has also indicated that moisture content across southern Queensland was generally above average for the month of February. Presumably that will increase further after the March deluge.
Grain growers in the Western Downs are expecting reasonable sorghum yields with pre-Christmas rain saving what could have been a bleak season.
For many the latest downpours were too late, but big rain further west around Surat came at the perfect time to finish crops around the southern Maranoa.
Hopeland farmer Greg Bender said last year’s heavy rain allowed a positive season for irrigated crops and local growers now had relative water security for the months ahead.
“It’s been a big benefit for us because we were just about running out of water to finish off our irrigated corn properly,” he said.
“For mungbeans it would have been a bit too late but the sorghum definitely benefits.
“Some people were still trying to harvest some of those early season crops, so the wet would have given them a bit of grief, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.”
Mr Bender said his 90mm was enough to return his ring tank to near 80 percent capacity, making way for a promising winter.
“It’s given us enough overland flow and rainfall to set us up for next year,” he said.
“It won’t be a one hundred percent guarantee, but at least it’s starting to build a profile of moisture and setting everyone up for a reasonable winter crop.
“Rainfall in late August or September sets you up for a good winter crop. We’re not guaranteed without that follow up rain.”