Crops suffer in tough conditions

By Alana Christensen

For Mulwala’s Fiona Marshall, this season has been a case of just holding on for two more weeks.

But as the ground remains dry and frost damage takes its toll, she said the time to salvage the season was running out and she and husband Craig had already started harvesting crops.

‘‘Our wheat is very frost damaged. The canola won’t yield so we’ve got sheep on it. We’re also cutting some canola for silage for our own use to get the sheep through the summer,’’ Mrs Marshall said.

With an even split of barley, wheat and canola on their 2500ha property, Mrs Marshall said a lack of rain had played a huge role in their failing crops.

The couple has seen just 60mm of rain fall on the farm, with the largest amount received only 12mm.

The Marshalls’ property stretches across 20km from north to south, with the creeping drought apparent as you drive through their property.

‘‘If we don’t get rain in the next two weeks they’ll just die off,’’ Mrs Marshall said.

Normally a quiet time for farmers, the dry conditions have driven many around the region onto tractors and out harvesting.

‘‘We would be three-and-a-half weeks at least, possibly even four weeks, ahead of where we’d like to be,’’ Mrs Marshall said.

‘‘This is before anyone would ever dream of cutting hay normally.’’

Having taken part in a Grains Research and Development Corporation tour recently, what struck Mrs Marshall the most was the inconsistency across the region.

Although several properties towards Dookie are faring quite well, she said there were very few people that would come out of the season with a quality crop.

‘‘We saw crops that were between 10 and 100 per cent frost damaged; it was quite an amazing variation. There was some barley that had seemingly gotten through but it might have been too early to tell,’’ she said.

‘‘We also saw canola that went from dead little stalks to good heights.

‘‘And that I think would have only been in about a 100km circle, so the variation there and results were really quite different.’’