Weather pattern change welcomed by most in agriculture

An independent climatologist says a change in the weather pattern could be fantastic news for farmers who need winter rain.

University of Southern Queensland's Professor Roger Stone said the El Nino weather pattern had all but ended, after being responsible for below average rainfall across the northern and eastern parts of Australia.

Professor Stone said he had been watching temperatures in the tropical Pacific, and while there was still a high chance of a La Nina forming, a neutral pattern could be just as good, particularly for major cropping regions.

"Historically, we know just going into the neutral pattern with a major shift out of an El Nino at this time of year tends to give us our best wheat crops in Australia, so it just tends to rain at the right time and it just tends to dry off around harvest," he said.

"So we're almost better than having a major La Nina."

Season has been wildly varied for southern and central primary producers

With a diminishing El Nino weather event, rainfall in Southern and Central Queensland leading into winter has been hit and miss.

Grain farmer Matt Brown owns Ranui near Meandarra, and said the season had been quite a conundrum for everyone thinking about planting.

"Patchy is the word. I've never seen next door neighbours, you know one can go and one can't," he said.

Mr Brown said there were huge variations in the amount of rain that had fallen even within a paddock, which was unusual.

"I've got a neighbour planting chickpeas at the moment that he started in a paddock and got halfway across it and had to stop and move, because obviously a storm and rain had gone across one part and not the other," Mr Brown said.

"I've been doing some contract planting down the road and I've come back and still can't find anything to plant on mine."

Many farmers have dry sown crops with the hope rain will come later in the season   Farmers in the key grain production regions are particularly keen on extra rain this winter. (ABC Rural: Arlie Felton-Taylor)

Central Queensland grain growers also are hoping for planting rain, and there has been a light sprinkling overnight which is continuing today.

That rain has been welcomed especially by those who took a punt and planted dryland chickpeas in the region.

For graziers it is the same story, with only storm rain falling over most of the key cattle and sheep producing areas.

Grazier Justin Boshammer said there was a big variation in the two places he ran cattle.

Mr Boshammer said at his property Elgin near Condamine, the season was okay, but his other place was dry.

"Another block just at Dulacca, it has been a real challenge there as we haven't had a fall over 10mm since about the first week in February, so we've had to drastically change our numbers a lot and find some agistment," he said.

Graziers in central Queensland will be looking to the skies after missing out on summer rain, particularly in parts of the Springsure district where feed is getting low.

Mixed season for Wide Bay, Burnett and parts of tropical north

It has been a dry summer and autumn in the Wide Bay and Burnett region, and the window for receiving much-needed rain is closing quickly.

Bundaberg strawberry grower Tina McPherson said warm days had brought on the fruit early, and she was now hoping for cool, dry nights.

"So we've given up wanting rain. We've wanted rain all summer and it hasn't come," she said.

"Now that the strawberries have started we don't want any rain, and cool nights would be lovely, but it doesn't seem to be affecting the fruit just yet."

Cane growers in the region have been irrigating heavily for at least the past two months.

Freshly pruned strawberry crop   Strawberry growers in the Wide Bay are hoping for some cool, dry nights. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Stewart Norton from Maryborough Sugar said rain now would finish the crop nicely.

"We've had some very good growing season earlier in the year. It's just getting a little bit dry now," he said.

"Irrigated cane's looking really good. Some of our dry land cane would really appreciate some rain right at the moment."

Around Mackay the crush has begun, and early indications are the crop will be up about 10 per cent on last year, despite a dry summer.

But with a boiler out of action at Marian Mill due to an explosion, a wet winter could compound issues for the already extended crush.

Cane growers hope rain does not interrupt the crush

The warm, wet start to winter has been a source of joy for some and worry for others.

Mossman Central has already pushed back its start date by a week and it may not be the only one.

Paddocks in the Herbert River district are already looking too wet to send in the harvesters on June 14, as had been intended, but generally growers are happy with the 100mm or so that has fallen around Ingham this week.

A little further down the highway at Rollingstone, pineapple grower Stephen Pace said the rain had been welcome.

"We probably averaged around the 50 millimetre mark or just a little bit above, and what it means is you can't put a value on it as we aren't used to getting rain at this time of year," he said.

"It's just unbelievable and it's going to make a big difference to the crop for later in the season, and considering it has been a drier than average wet season, we couldn't have asked for better."

Cane harvester at work   Northern cane growers are hoping for some dry weather for harvest. (Neroli Roocke)

On some parts of the tropical coast, May rain has reached record levels and most farmers do not mind a bit.

Tropical exotic fruit, papaws, cocoa and avocados are soaking it up, but cooler weather would be a godsend for the banana industry, grappling with one of its worst gluts.

Silkwood banana grower Steve Lizzio said while they did not want temperatures to drop too much, a little bit of cold weather would help everybody.

"Certainly no winter appearing on the horizon at this stage, so weather conditions have been quite humid and sunny, with early morning and afternoon showers contributing to perfect growing conditions," he said.

According to James Geraghty on the Atherton Tableland, a cool snap would also alleviate pressure on the far northern dairy herd.

"We've had the sprinklers on the cows in the last week trying to cool them down," he said.

"We've had heat stressed animals in the afternoons and we have dropped 10 per cent in volumes simply because of the heat."

Inland areas have not missed out

North West and Western Queensland has seen an unseasonal soaking in parts, but others are still waiting

In the gulf country, rainfall maps show the region has recorded between 400mm and 600mm over the past six months, but as you travel south the rain falls away dramatically, and even in the north-west rain has been patchy.

For those who saw some storm rain, coupled with the warmer autumn weather it has extended the growing season for native pastures.

Grazier Rick Britton said it was the best year he had seen for a while, and he hoped the warmer weather would stick around a bit longer.

"Those that were lucky enough to get that early summer rain, the Mitchell grass is growing, and because of that heat ... the Mitchell grass has grown to its full potential," he said.

Many graziers are carefully monitoring the pasture growth on their places going into winter   Significant rain is needed in the cooler months to aid pasture growth for livestock owners. (ABC Rural: Arlie Felton-Taylor)

Mr Britton, also the Boulia Shire Mayor, said it had been a long time coming for graziers who had been waiting.

"This year is better than any year we've had in the last three years. The last three years have been just nothing and extreme heat," he said.

Mr Britton said the extended season would prove a winner for those who were looking to turn off stock.

"You'll be turning your cattle off, your dry cattle or your fat cattle off, because it really whacks the weight on them," he said.

"If they turn off earlier, it leaves you a good ground cover to get your breeders through to the next wet."

Source: ABC News

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