A beautiful thing happened here yesterday. It rained. Roughly 16mm of that life giving, morale boosting, profit enabling wet stuff. Now being dry-land farmers (no irrigation) we rely on rain for our income and aside from the short 6-8 week harvest period each year, rain is basically always a good thing.
Rain that falls in the springtime like it did yesterday, is almost worth double. As our crops look like this:
The pasta wheat that you can see on the left is grain filling. I went for a walk in it tonight and found some little green and squishy wheat grains developing in the heads. The lentils on the right are getting towards the end of flowering. They’ve set a few pods already and you can see the while flowers contrasting nicely against the green plants.
Last year on this very day I wrote a blog post showing how dry it was in 2012 at this crucial point in the year. 2012 turned out quite well as despite the dry conditions the weather was cool, allowing the plants to mature slowly and still do quite well. 2013 is looking like being something else entirely. Potentially something quite stunning. The best way I can show you what is happening here this year is by giving you a little screen grab out of one of my Excel spreadsheets. This grab shows 22 years worth of monthly rainfall records for where I live. The column on the right hand side called ‘GSR’ is simply a total of the months from April-October of each year. All I’ve done is make the wettest 30% of years appear blue and the driest 30% of years appear as red.
Who cares about all these number ‘Nerd Farmer’? I can hear you asking. Well farmers do. What is significant about this year is the number for 2013 is a measly 10mm short of turning blue. We have 1 week left in October to get another 10 mm of rain. If we do hit the magical ‘decile 7’ rainfall, it will just be the 4th time in my lifetime and the first in living memory for anyone my age or younger.
In summary, we’ve had our wettest and best growing season since 1992. Now a lot has changed in the world since 1992, and an awful lot of farming practice has changed as well. I’ve been farming for nearly four years and I’ve never tilled (cultivated) a paddock. Many of these changes including no-till and GPS have been to make better use of the water that does fall on our soil. We’re also much better at applying fertiliser at the appropriate time than we were back then. So what happens to production when we get a high(ish) rainfall year to really push our modern farming systems and see what they’re capable of? Is it more profitable to push these farming systems just because we can?
In this area at least, nobody knows. But we’re excited to find out. With the next 7-day forecast looking good for grain filling, it’s a good time to be farming.