Farmers are cautiously excited about the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) forecast of a wetter-than-average period during spring.

Key points:

  • To the delight of farmers, BOM is forecasting a wetter-than-average spring
  • Analysts say a La Niña would push commodity prices higher
  • Farmers could experience a trifecta of good seasons

It could mean a trifecta of good seasons and a massive turnaround for the farm sector after some very tough drought years.

The BOM outlook is based on a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event which increases the chances of above-average winter-spring rainfall for much of southern and eastern Australia.

Image of the ENSO

Most climate models indicate the central tropical Pacific is likely to cool over the coming months, but remain ENSO-neutral, so the chances of La Niña developing are also neutral.(

Supplied: BOM

)

There was some excitement in farming circles about the possibility for a La Niña system developing when the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) came in at +6.3 for the 30 day period to August 15.

That would be good news for farmers, but the index returned to neutral values since then.

Dr Naomi Benger, a climatologist at BOM, said while La Niña is not on the cards now, a wet spring across south-eastern Australia is likely.

“We’re seeing warmer sea surface temperature just south of Java, in eastern parts of the Indian Ocean, and near average temperatures at the Horn of Africa,” she said.

Dr Benger said the right weather systems were still needed in Australia to bring that moisture across to the east coast.

The other thing affecting the outlook for spring is the temperature of the central tropical Pacific, and climate models are indicating it is likely to cool over the coming months.

That may be contributing to the wetter-than-median rainfall outlooks in Australia, along with the negative IOD.

A graph of sea surface temperatures

Three of the seven models surveyed by the BOM anticipate sea surface temperatures will meet or exceed La Niña thresholds during November, but only one sustains cooling long enough between October and December to indicate a full-fledged event.(

Supplied: BOM

)

Commodity markets moving already

Forecasts of a wet spring in Australia are already catching the attention of commodity analysts.

Cheryl Kalisch Gordon from Rabobank said La Niña is often bad news for northern hemisphere farmers, but good news for Australia.

“If we get the benefits of La Nina in terms of a wetter-than-average season then it is likely to be drier and warmer in the Northern Hemisphere and South America.

Trifecta of good seasons

A man in a wheat field, holding wheat.

Neil Westcott, pictured with last season’s crop, is excited by the prospect of another wet spring.(

ABC Rural: Luke Wong

)

Farmers like Neil Westcott at Parkes are licking their lips at the forecast of a wet spring. 

His crops are already looking pretty good at the moment.

Disease can still be a problem in a wet year, mice are still a threat, and rain at harvest time can cause problems. 

A field of canola in bloom.

Canola prices have been at record levels due to poor seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.(

ABC Rural: Jo Prendergast

)

Farmers are excited though because good crops may also come at a time when commodity prices are high. 

Some of the pricing is quite amazing, especially canola, and the cereals are slowing getting that way too.”

There is still a long way to go before farmers can bank the cheque and Mr Westcott remembers other years when things were looking pretty good, only to fall in a heap.

“We remember 2011-12 summers, we were on the cusp of some amazing crops and watched them get downgraded,” he said.

Farmers excited with BOM forecasting another wet spring amid commodity prices boom
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