Parkes experiencing welcome turnaround after devastating drought

DAM BUSTING: Water spilling over at Lake Endeavour Dam on July 19. 537.8mm of rain has fallen in Parkes this year. Photo: Glen Harbidge.

DAM BUSTING: Water spilling over at Lake Endeavour Dam on July 19. 537.8mm of rain has fallen in Parkes this year. Photo: Glen Harbidge.

For grain growers across the region, 2020 will be remembered for offering up an almost perfect start to the season.

After another solid dump of rain last weekend, the total rainfall in Parkes this year, measured at the Bureau of Meteorology's weather station at Parkes Airport, is now sitting at 537.8 millimetres.

Contrast this to the first seven months of 2019, where there was just 170mm in the throngs of Australia's worst ever drought.

Lake Endeavour is now spilling over after reaching capacity, less than six months after it was at less than 20 percent and farm dams throughout the region are all filling up.

The optimal conditions have meant crops are running two to four weeks ahead of schedule across the region, and Parkes agronomist Peter Yelland says he has been told multiple times how much this rain has meant to people.

"Farmers that are two generations older than me are saying this is without a doubt the biggest turnaround they have ever seen in agriculture, and we may not ever see something like it ever again."

It isn't just rainfall that is responsible for the advanced growing conditions either, with warmer temperatures and less frosts also a factor.

"Usually a winter in Parkes would have about 29 days where it gets under zero degrees, but this year we probably aren't going to even hit 10," says Mr Yelland.

One major way to control big canopies is through grazing, and one of the sad effects of the drought has been the extensive de-stocking in the region.

"This massive pasture growth can't be controlled with stock, and many people don't have the capacity to purchase and re-stock as of yet.

"I can vouch for the viability of it, but after such a bad drought farmers aren't wanting to overdraft and be left with more debt.

"Especially given it will take them a long time to see the income that would earn them back the money they would spend on stock," says Mr Yelland.

In more good news, crop growers in the region have been relatively untroubled by COVID-19 and all the challenges it has presented around the world.

"The world will always need protein. Whether it be meat or grain, protein drives the global food market so local farmers are in a good spot," say Mr Yelland.

Mainstream media has made a lot of China placing a tariff on barley, but it hasn't worried Peter in the slightest.

"China can place all the tariffs they like. They won't be able to grow all of it themselves, so they will have to get it from somewhere else- and that's where the gap in the market will be."

In a few months when the winter crop harvest season begins, fingers are crossed this turnaround has led to a boom harvest.