Rain too late to save many wheat crops

Rain has saved many of the district’s wheat crops east of the Newell Highway from being turned into hay – but sadly west of there it’s a case of too little, too late.

It was the first fall for many of the region’s farmers since the middle of winter, breaking a two-month dry spell.

Hamish Murray, an agronomist at Landmark Narrabri, said last week’s rain was welcome but not in time to do much for the winter wheat.

“The rain will be good for cotton and summer plantings, but it’s been very dry over winter and it’s a bit late for most of the winter crop,” he said.

“The damage has been done. Some people have baled their crops and some people have grazed them.”

Conditions deteriorate further west.

“West of Wee Waa there are some scattered long fallow crops and quite a few failed crops,” Mr Murray said.

“East of that line they just got a little bit more rain, but even with this rain the crops are only likely to average, about 1 tonne to the hectare.”

Mr Murray estimated most people received about 25mm out of the first fall last week and then there was another 10-20mm.

It was the first rain in two months or more.

Chickpeas have fared a little better than the wheat.

“The early chickpeas aren’t far off harvest, and the later [sown] ones might benefit a little from the rain,” Mr Murray said.

“Plenty of crops won’t be big yielders, maybe 1 or 1.5 tonnes to the hectare or less.

“Once you get to Wee Waa there’s quite a lot of irrigation and they have reasonable water allocations this year.”

Mr Murray said the rain would help some fallow paddocks  – that have been kept clean and kept a moisture profile –  for a dryland sorghum or cotton planting over summer.

Andrew Carberry of Cardarga, 20km west of Narrabri, said his farm received between 25 and 35mm of rain early last week.

“Most people got some rain,” he said. “But it was a bit late for most of the wheat.”

Mr Carberry said he would still harvest a below-average crop as last week’s rain was the first in around 10 weeks.

“Further west there was hardly any moisture to plant on and it’s still dry.”