Race against time: Farmers look to the heavens

THE region’s farmers are locked in a race against time with a critical rain window for winter crops closing fast.

RACE AGAINST TIME: Tamworth wheat and barley grower Robert Smith says while a good downpour late last month revived his winter crop prospects, more was desperately needed. Photo: Gareth Gardner

RACE AGAINST TIME: Tamworth wheat and barley grower Robert Smith says while a good downpour late last month revived his winter crop prospects, more was desperately needed. Photo: Gareth Gardner

A lack of sub-soil moisture across the district means many oats, barley and canola growers need rain in the next few days to save crops from failure or dramatically reduced yields.

While light falls are predicted over the weekend and into Monday, no substantial rain is forecast until November.

It comes as Tamworth residents face the looming spectre of Level 3 water restrictions, the toughest in seven years.

“It’s edge-of-the-sword stuff right now,” Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Agata Imielska said.

“We still could get some falls though.”

She said October was predicted to be a dry and warm month but a more neutral weather pattern was emerging for November.

Tamworth farmer Robert Smith said while his barley and wheat crops copped a “good soaking” in late September, much more was needed.

“We’ve got no subsoil moisture,” Mr Smith said.

“We need really good, soaking rain.”

Department of Primary Industries northern cropping systems manager Guy McMullen said the lack of rain would soon cause pinched grain in wheat.

“Certainly they’ll not fill out,” Dr McMullen said.

“There are crops that are really starting to show those early signs of stress such as high screenings and reduced yield.”

Mixed farmer Brian Bilby, who runs the 2428-hectare Surrey farm near Currabubula, said yesterday: “We’re growing wheat, barley and oats and 150 acres of lucerne – and my son’s trying to do contract spraying as well.”

“We got 42mm on September 26 ... that’s why my wheat looks so good. Further down in Currabubula, they only got 25mm, so it was patchy. We were lucky: we got a hard storm.

“You can never be confident.”

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