Wimmera April rain boosts soil moisutre

GOOD START: Ouyen farmer Adam O'Callaghan has described April rain as a great start to the season. Picture: JOELY MITCHELL

GOOD START: Ouyen farmer Adam O'Callaghan has described April rain as a great start to the season. Picture: JOELY MITCHELL

AUTUMN rain has given Wimmera growers one of the best seasonal starts in years.

Many Wimmera towns had the wettest April in more than 40 years, which has added to the soil moisture already there from spring last year. 

Last month, Patyah had the wettest April on record, while Kaniva and Apsley had the wettest since 1974.

Horsham received 129 millimetres, which is well above the long-term average of 78.4mm.

Agriculture Victoria’s latest soil moisture monitoring shows that soil moisture values, as a collective, are higher than usual for this time of year compared with the past five years of monitoring.

Agriculture Victoria agronomist Dale Boyd said there was variation in soil moisture levels and the largest contributing factor was which crop was grown last year and its yield.

“Generally good residual moisture remains if the crop was cut for hay or the yield expectations were not met for the rain received in 2016,” he said.

“That compares to the high yielding crops – some that were the highest yielding recorded on farms – had done so by using all the available moisture that was in the profile.

“Soil monitoring will again play a vital role this year to understand soil water reserves as we go through the year and will assist with decision making for inputs during the growing season.”

Mr Boyd said autumn rain would especially help out those areas where record crops were grown in 2016 and soil moisture was depleted, but was now being built up again.

Some of those monitoring points have gone from 25 per cent full to 50 to 75 per cent, which is different to last season.

“In 2016, the season started very dry and it took a series of rains through autumn and winter to wet up the top soil horizon,” Mr Boyd said.

“It then started to infiltrate down through the profile in greater amounts in the spring, filling the soil profiles.

“In the Mallee, rain in September and October boosted soil moisture.

“However some crops were already flowering so that rain infiltrated past the root zone and was not able to be used by the crop.

“Moisture in these paddocks still remains at depth.

“Rain in April has linked up this deep soil moisture as it moves down through the profile and it presents as a full profile, raising enthusiasm in the cropping districts.  

“Most districts now have excellent conditions for sowing crops with healthy moisture reserves for this time of year.”  

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting significant rainfall all the way from central Queensland through to the northern slopes of Victoria this week.

Duty forecaster Tom Delamotte said the bulk of the rain would come when tropical moisture from Queensland fed into the system from Friday.

He said areas to the south of the Great Divide in Victoria would also likely miss out on significant falls.

The bureau has forecast the region will receive between 10mm and 20mm of rain on Friday.

There is also a chance of a shower on Saturday.