13 April 2023, AU: El Nino was the buzz word for March, with conversations regarding rainfall predictions a daily occurrence and a great concern. It had been a dry start to the season for most of the Mallee, with as little as 20 mm of summer rain since November. Patchy rainfall in late March totalling anywhere from 10 to 40 mm offered a little reprieve, with showers falling over Easter also.
After a dry summer the top 15 to 20 cm of the soil profile has now dried out, however on the back of a record rainfall year there is still plenty of residual moisture at depth. Recent data released by Agriculture Victoria’s soil moisture monitoring network, shows that root zone soil moisture (from 30 cm to 1 m) in parts of the Mallee is at saturation. The downside is that the most recent rainfall outlook released by the Bureau of Meteorology predicts a drier than average April-June period for the region. However, if we can get a solid Autumn break, we should have enough moisture for the dry topsoil to connect with the saturated subsoil. Allowing crops to tap into enough moisture to carry them through to the end of the season.
Looking back at the months leading up to seeding, the sprayers finally came to a halt for the first time in almost 6 months. This was due to a lack of rainfall during the February-March period, with paddocks remaining quite clean following their post-harvest weed control. This has given growers the opportunity to complete other tasks, with repairing rough paddocks being the first cab off the rank, following such a wet season. A variety of implements have been used to repair the deep wheel ruts and large bog holes including speed tillers, discs, wheel track renovators to name a few, with growers achieving impressive results. Additionally, there has been a lot of seeding preparation including seed grading and treating, acquiring seed and fertiliser, gypsum applications, machinery maintenance and more.
Our growers made a start to their cropping programs earlier this month sowing grazing crops such as vetch, medic and cereals to fill a Winter feed gap. As well as any legume crops for brown manure. Seeding is now hitting full steam with vetch hay, oaten hay and canola being sown mid-April, followed by lentils and barley around ANZAC day. Wheat programs will commence early May, followed by field peas anytime up until the beginning of June.
Ideally, we would like to get a solid Autumn break to be seeding into moisture to establish crops on time and get a great knockdown on any early weed pressure. Some areas were fortunate enough to get rainfall totals around an inch during last week’s rain, which will hold them in good stead. Whilst other areas are still eagerly waiting, with a constant eye on the weather forecast.
Across the river, rice crops are now being harvested, with most paddocks being drained off in late March/early April. Crop maturity is later than usual due to the difficulties faced at sowing with the relentless wet weather, and the cold snap we had in early January. Yields are still looking promising considering the challenges faced this season, with some great looking crops about the district.
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