Just as we thought things couldn’t get any drier the heavens opened last weekend and the Canowindra region got a solid, very crucial 27mm to 30mm or so of rain.
Of course, it didn’t match the 63mm that fell on Goulburn, or the 50mm that hit Orange, but it raised hopes among our farmers that we’ll get through to winter planting time in April with enough moisture to germinate the seed.
And forecasts of more showers and possible thunderstorms for the region earlier this week, especially Wednesday, lifted their spirits even further.
But the weekend fall was still a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of water needed to break the drought that’s gripped the Central West for the past two years.
Cudal Road wheat and canola farmer Stewart McDonald saw it as a cosmetic fall that hasn’t changed the situation much – “but it’s a pretty good start.
“We’ve got no water reserves as we move into autumn,” Stewart says.
“We can hold on until the window opens in mid-April, but we’ll need another solid fall in the next few weeks to put in the winter crops.
“It’ll be a question of whether some farmers dry seed while others wait a little while for the rain.”
Just how uncertain the situation is at the moment can be seen in how widely varying the key weather forecasts were for Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Elders and Weatherzone predicted a 50 percent chance of 1.5mm of rain on both days, while Ozforecast tipped a “slight chance” of a storm, and Willyweather went for an 80 percent chance of 5-10mm of rain on Wednesday.
Wheat farmer Charlie Balcomb took a rest from ploughing on Monday to agree that the “open window in mid-April” is vital.
“But we need more falls like last weekend before then,” he says. “Two more 20mm falls between now and April would be great.
“Even then, the situation’s not critical by any stretch of the imagination. It’s rained by April every year, so I’ve got no worries.
“But I’ll definitely be dry seeding and keeping my fingers crossed.”
But what about the rest of the year? US and Australian climate experts are warning of an ominous “75-percent chance” of an El Nino weather pattern causing deepening drought conditions and record high temperatures in Australia toward the end of 2014.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says while the El Nino event is “certainly not guaranteed at this point in time,” we’ll know if it’s coming by around early June.
By Derek Maitland