Farmers brace against trifecta of natural disasters
Victorian farmers are racing against the clock to harvest their crops before a potentially record-breaking rainfall hits the state this weekend. This completes a trifecta of brutal weather events for agriculture, following severe frosts in early November, and battering hail early this week.
Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said that numerous areas of the agricultural industry are facing serious impacts, including grains, stone fruit and livestock.
“If the rain was coming in after our produce had been harvested, it would be a different story,” Mr Jochinke said. “The real damage will come if it’s heavy, intense rain, which is looking likely.”
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning of severe weather, with heavy rains predicted across Victoria from Friday afternoon, peaking through Saturday.
In pulses like lentils, peas and chickpeas, forceful rain can strip pods from the stalk and soaked seeds can become brittle as they dry and contract. Warm, humid conditions after heavy rainfall can cause cereals to sprout, downgrading their quality to feed-grade.
This rain comes after a month of challenging weather for grain farmers. Damaging frost events in early November, followed by hail, have crushed previously high expectations, and many farmers have already experienced significant losses. These challenges follow the mice issues that were felt earlier in many areas as well.
The BOM has also warned that the warm, humid conditions are conducive to brown rot, which could potentially afflict horticultural produce such as stone fruit.
Livestock will need to be moved to safe pastures away from potential flooding. The rain can also strip nutrients out of dry feed in the field, and farmers must decide which fields to sacrifice to ‘pugging’, where livestock’s feet churn wet ground, and destroy pasture.
“We’re hoping the rain doesn’t come down too violently, and that the weather afterwards is dry and windy enough to remove the excess moisture,” said Mr Jochinke.
“We can’t control the risk of these weather events. But what we can control is how we manage risk in our response: getting as much of the harvest in as we can before the rains hit, moving stock away from areas at risk of flooding, and most importantly, farmers taking care of our own safety.”
David Jochinke, VFF President, 0427 834 524
Sarah Martin, VFF Media Community Officer, 0409 739 121