Farmers concerned at prolonged drought

Farmers around the Wellington region are looking to the sky for rain as the winter crop sowing period fast approaches.

Local AGnVET agronomist, Anthony Stibbard, confirmed the district was suffering a short-term drought following one of the driest winters on record in 2017. 

“It was dry and tough, frost also played a part and we are going into this season with very little stored moisture, so it’s a worry,” he said. 

“The fact that winter crop sowing is just around the corner and in most parts of the district there’s been very little summer rain stored in the profile is probably the major issue. Not necessarily that it’s dry at the moment, but that we don’t have the moisture in the profile, that’s what’s worrying me.” 

Hand-feeding stock is in full swing as farmers wait on a break to sow winter forage. Anthony anticipates this will occur around mid-March should the region receive significant rainfall. But it doesn’t come without stress to Wellington’s farmers. 

“There’s a bit of stress, farming is just proving a bit of a risk in recent years,” he said.

“Grazing crops are playing a huge role, pasture improvements are becoming more and more important, but there’s certainly an element of stress there at the moment but we’ll cross our fingers we can get a break.

“Come the middle of March we’ll be starting to dry-sow wheat with little moisture, so it’s pretty bleak at the moment but if we get a decent drench between now and March we’ll be back on track.”

Although the forecast for the coming weeks looks ordinary, Anthony said it’s not all doom and gloom just yet. 

“It’s still early enough that if we get a good dump of rain in the next month we’ll be back on track,” he said. 

“If we’re in this situation still by April then we’re in trouble, but if we can get to March and all of a sudden the season breaks we’ll be back on track.”