Wet Mortlock weekend would be welcome

THE Mortlock Shield Carnival is traditionally a wet weekend and despite it making for less than ideal playing conditions, more than a few players and spectators would be hoping for a very wet few days again this year.

While it is nice to be enjoying some clear, sunny winter days (albeit with very cold mornings) the need for rain is in the back of many minds at this time of year – and the absolute forefront of minds in farming communities.

No matter the circle of people, talk inevitably turns to rain, whether it’s to fill up the tanks, water the garden or, most importantly give crops the start they need for 2017.

The lack of significant rainfall is particularly concerning coming off the back of a seriously dry autumn, which has left soil moisture levels low.

Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Darren Ray has said the Eyre Peninsula could see similar winter conditions to those in 2014, warmer and drier than average.

The difference between then and now though was 2014 saw a decent amount of soil moisture build up before winter began.

It is still early days for the 2017 season but the prospect of a less than bumper harvest affects more than just the farmers and their suppliers.

The success of the cropping season on Eyre Peninsula has an impact on the region’s economy and as a major South Australian producing region, it also has an effect on the state’s economy.

If the money is coming in and confidence is high, spending will reflect that, helping local businesses, contributing to employment, which in turn boosts the economy further.

Given the relatively good seasons the region’s farmers have had over the past few years, it is easy to forget that less than a decade ago, Eyre Peninsula farmers were receiving Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance.

Since then a lot of work has been done – much of it by farmers themselves – to adapt to the increasing dryness the region is expected to experience as a result of climate change.

This adaptation plays an important part in keeping the region’s farms viable but a tough year is still a tough year for growers and the uncertainty takes its toll.

There are plenty of other factors that come into play to make a good season, from grain prices to pest problems but at this stage of the year a good drenching would be a welcome start.