SOUTH west grain growers are finally getting the rain they longed for during winter but its coincidental arrival with the start of harvest has left headers halted as they anxiously wait for a dry break.
Scott Loughnan, Avenel, Roma, and his wife April, took over his family’s farming operation in July last year and currently have chickpea and wheat planted.
Harvesting of their main wheat crop began on the property 18 days ago but so far Mr Loughnan and his staff have only spent five days on the headers and harvested 300 hectares due to wet weather.
That’s compared with last year when they spent 30 days harvesting and were stopped for one and a half days.
While Mr Loughnan has harvested about 40 per cent of his wheat, he is yet to touch his chickpeas which were hit by consecutive frosts. He expects half of the crop has been frost affected.
The wet change caps off a tough year for growers in the area who were content with at least pulling off an average crop following hot, dry and cold conditions this season.
Speaking to the Queensland Country Life on Monday, Mr Loughnan said they had received 55mm of rain since harvest began, compared with 40mm during the growing season.
“It’s just frustrating when you have had more rain since you’ve tried to start harvesting than what you have had for the growing season,” he said.
“I probably would be happier about it if we had of had a wetter winter and then we were getting rain but when you go so long wanting to get rain, and you can’t say no to rain, but how can you dodge us for so long and then (rain during harvest)?”
In preparing for the dry and hot conditions forecast for the winter season, for the first time Mr Loughnan planted 50 hectares of Suntime, a longer seasonal variety, and was able to harvest it early from September 25.
Overall, this year’s wheat and chickpea crop was smaller due to lack of soil moisture after planting on two thirds of a full profile.
They instead prepared 200 hectares of fallow to use for a summer sorghum crop.
Mr Loughnan said their wheat harvest should have been done by now, meaning summer crop planting wouldn’t begin until December.
“It could be 18 months again before you get back into your winter rotation,” he said.
“You can still be harvesting sorghum when you are trying to plant.”
Pulse Australia's Paul McIntosh said the best chickpea crops were in Central Queensland but southern crops had suffered.
“We were going along pretty nicely but the dry weather and then the frost and inability to recover has yields down,” he said.
“If the whole of southern Queensland averaged 1t/ha we would be doing handstands.”