The heavens have opened over Queensland’s southern border region, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for grain growers – right at the start of harvest time.
For other farmers, however, it’s been an unexpected delight to see rain gauges fill up.
- Storms in parts of southern Queensland have coincided with the start of harvest season
- The areas around Goondiwindi and Mungindi have had up to 60 millimetres of rain, while it hailed in Cunnamulla
- The wild weather will delay harvest plans for some farmers, while others are delighted to have the extra rain
Falls of up to 60 millimetres have been recorded in the Mungindi and Goondiwindi regions, while hailstones pummelled Cunnamulla further south-west.
Rain is normally a welcome sight for growers, but Agforce grains president Brendan Taylor said it was “too little, too late” for some.
“Rain would have been beneficial for some of the late-planted cereals and chickpeas three to four weeks ago, because we really haven’t recorded any rain of use since July,” Mr Taylor said.
The deluge is linked to a low pressure system moving through the state.
Mr Taylor said rain earlier in the season could have created a bumper crop, but now it threatens to derail and delay harvest plans.
“It’s basically just interrupted the harvest, which hasn’t been going very long. Most headers have been going three or four days before this rolled through,” he said.
The moisture in the ground has raised concerns harvesters may not be able to get across the border into northern New South Wales.
“Rain, certainly like some of the falls further south, will make it a bit heavy underfoot,” Mr Taylor said.
“So, it adds another challenge to harvesting with potentially some trucks not making it through.”
Close call for grape growers
Hail stones 5 centimetres in size were reported in Cunnamulla on Wednesday afternoon, while hail in St George made for a nervous time for Riversands winery owner David Blackett.
“We had a little bit of hail, which was a worry at this time of the year, given the bunches are just coming into flowering, so they can easily be mucked around,” Mr Blackett said.
“But fortunately it was only short lived, so I don’t think there’s been too much damage.”
He said weather events like these were an anxious time for the industry, especially with recent changes to insurance.
“We can’t get insurance any more for hail damage, which is a real concern for our industry,” Mr Blackett said.
“It’s been withdrawn by the underwriters, so we’re pretty disappointed with the insurance industry that they’ve gone ahead and done that.
“It leaves us a little bit exposed, you feel like you’re standing in your underpants in a way.”
The rainfall, nevertheless, increased the Beardmore dam to 90 per cent capacity.
“We had about another 9mm last night … on top of 11mm the day before, so everything’s pretty well wet up, soil moisture-wise,” Mr Blackett said.
Graziers further west also felt relief.
Lesdale Station owner Russell Tickell was woken in the early hours of the morning by a storm rolling over his property north-east of Charleville.
He said he was ecstatic to find between 25mm and 32mm in his rain gauges.
“It couldn’t be better and it’ll really do an amazing job, especially this early,” Mr Tickell said.
“We weren’t expecting anything yet, but we’re over the moon.”
The Murweh Shire, where Mr Tickell is based, has been drought declared since 2013.
So, when there’s rain in the area, people want to know where.
“The phone has been running hot, as it does on these sort of mornings,” Mr Tickell laughed.
For farmers like Mr Tickell, the unexpected storm was not only very well timed, but will prove very beneficial for pastures.
“It was just starting to get a bit dusty,” he said.
“It has really started to hay off a lot here in the last month or so.
“But it’s great to get it this early in the season.”
With more storms and rain forecast towards the Darling Downs today, Brendan Taylor said it would be an anxious wait for some local growers.
“The biggest concern is some of the barley crops around the Downs have got substantial yields on them and lodged quite badly a few months ago,” Mr Taylor said.
“A big bit of rain on a crop that’s partially down won’t be ideal.
“[But] there are probably as many people wanting rain as not and it’s always a balancing act with rain in storm season.”
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