Goondiwindi farmers use innovation to beat the drought

Innovative district wheat growers, and a few drops of rain, have ensured there are still some top crops around. North Star farmer, Jeff Nixon, said he is “amazed” at what wheat can do with only a “little” rain and what farmers can manage to achieve even in the toughest of circumstances.

 A “roll cloud” taken last week by North Star farmer Jeff Nixon. "We only had a few millimetres, normally you'd expect a few inches from a storm like this," he said.

A “roll cloud” taken last week by North Star farmer Jeff Nixon. "We only had a few millimetres, normally you'd expect a few inches from a storm like this," he said.

It’s why despite the drought he is excited about the the annual John Woods Memorial Goondiwindi P&A Society Dryland Field Wheat Competition. Despite the drought, there are some “handy crops” out there according to competition steward, Jeff. “It has been a tough year for everyone and getting under a cloud occasionally has given a few crops a bit of a drink. Along with some innovative fallow management andnd planting strategies there are a few handy crops around.

The Competition area includes all of the old Waggamba Shire area north of the Macintyre River and an 80km radius south. Last week’s rain has certainly given farmers something to smile about but it has more to do with showing them that it can still rain. Rain varied from a few millimetres to around 40mm just north of Goondiwindi. “Crops that are still green will benefit - going straight into grain size. It is too late to put up more heads,” Jeff said. “It amazes me what wheat can do on such little rain. There are a few areas that received some rain in April and had a few follow up falls that will have a reasonable crop but overall winter crop production will be a fraction of normal.

Most of the media and pollies have moved on from the drought story, afterall, there are only so many new Akubras available for the photo opportunities, but it is going to be a long haul, and many towns and districts are going to feel it for a while yet

North Star farmer, Jeff Nixon

“It is hard to put numbers on the crop value and its impact on the district. Current high prices will help those that have grain to sell and with feedlots and millers requiring a lot of grain imports from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and overseas will be required, especially if there is a small sorghum crop.

“At this stage soil moisture levels are very low in sorghum growing areasand it will take a widespread break in the current weather pattern before the end of the year to have any impact on the tight supply situation. Without a sorghum crop and reduced cotton crops, a lot of farmers will have a reduced income for another year or longer.”