Ongoing drought has caused devastation for farmers across central Queensland for many years, with the Central Highlands region feeling the effects particularly strongly.

And for farmers based near the town of Emerald, it has been even drier than usual.

Key points:

  • Farmers near Emerald are feeling the effects of a year with minimal rain and no water allocation
  • Cotton and grain growers have had to make do with whatever water they’ve been able to access
  • Many hope for a better spring, with the BOM predicting above-median rainfall from September to November

Renee Anderson is a grains and cotton farmer, but the conditions this year meant she was not able to plant cotton.

“The rainfall’s actually been down for the last five years; this is our fifth year going into these low rainfall years,” she said.

Ms Anderson was able to plant a winter crop of wheat and chickpeas after allocations were announced earlier this year, but she now has no water for the summer season.

“We’ve used our water on that last irrigation, so this is semi-irrigated crop and that last irrigation went on that.

“So, currently we will probably go into another fallow unless there is a significant rainfall event towards the end of the year or that spring rainfall.

“It’s a wait and see at this stage until we get some allocation, because I didn’t want to go into another zero per cent allocation and plant on rainfall and then have no back-up.

“We’ve done that previously and it hasn’t really been that successful.”

With zero per cent allocation out of Fairbairn Dam, many farmers are relying on carryover from last year to get them through.

But growers have their fingers crossed that predictions from the Bureau of Meteorology that suggest a better spring season will come true.

As the spring season begins, the BOM predicts a very likely chance of above-median rainfall in the region between September and November.

Farmer Ian Burnett kneels in a wheat field inspecting the crops.

Ian Burnett inspects his wheat, which relied solely on rainfall to get off the ground this year.(

ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw

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Like Ms Anderson, Ian Burnett is a cotton and grains farmer based near Emerald.

In order to put in cotton this summer, he had to rely solely on the rain to water the wheat he put in for the winter.

Like many others, he is having to carefully choose where he uses his water. 

“We have enough water gathered together to plant 260 hectares of irrigated cotton,” Mr Burnett said.

He said that while he would prefer to plant more crops for the summer, the lack of rain and allocation meant this was not possible.

“At this stage with zero allocation, that’s all the water we have for the area we’re planting.”

The lack of water this year would have a strong impact on what producers were able to get to market, he added.

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Comet farmer Neek Morawitz said cotton was not the only crop suffering this year, with food crops like wheat and chickpeas also being impacted.

“Dryland winter crops have really struggled; this year in our near vicinity they’re nearly non-existaent,” Mr Morawitz said.

He said that all farmers could do was make sure they were ready if the rain did come.

“Hopefully off the back of that there’s some spring rain and growers will be able to turn some country around and get some cotton in as well.”

Drought-stricken farmers hope for spring rain salvation
Source:
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