Wet and windy weather has caused large areas of cane to fall over in Queensland’s southern sugar region, but the rain been welcomed by inland graziers.
Areas around Bundaberg received as much as 100mm in less than 24 hours, and winds reached speeds of almost 50 kilometres an hour.
About 30 per cent of the Bundaberg crop has tipped and could become lodged.
Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle said the crush was due to start next week, but it could be delayed because the cane was difficult to harvest.
“It’ll also have an effect on CCS (sugar content) and it has a reasonable effect with regards to being able to get into those blocks a bit earlier, because when it does fall over like that it’s a lot more difficult for air and sun to get in, and it takes a long time to dry out,” he said.
“Some of those blocks that are severely lodged, they’ll take probably three weeks to be dry enough to be harvested, but probably some of those blocks won’t be harvested until later on in the year anyway.”
Lodged cane, or cane that has tipped over and grows back into the paddock rather than standing erect, causes a range of problems for harvesting.
It can be tangled and dirty, making it difficult to feed into harvesters, and more extraneous matter such as trash and soil is collected.
Bundaberg Sugar general manger David Pickering said the company would make a decision about the crush later this week.
“We suspect from our indications from our growers at this stage, Millaquin (mill) may be able to get away at slightly reduced capacity. At Bingera there might only be half supply cane available,” he said.
“We’ll just have to assess that and then it’s very early days.
“We’ll need to see how the weather is for drying the cane before we start the factory up.”
To the south, Maryborough and Childers experienced some lodging but not to the extent seen around Bundaberg.
With their crushes due to start towards the end of the month, there is more time for paddocks to dry out.
Losses for early strawberries
South-east Queensland’s strawberry growers were also hit by the wet weather, with some faring worse than others.
Queensland Strawberries vice president Adrian Schultz said he was still assessing his fields, but expected to lose between 30 to 50 per cent of his 3-hectare crop at Wamuran this week.
“It’s part of doing strawberries in Queensland. These events occur and we’ve just got to take it in our stride,” he said.
“If you’ve got a softer earlier variety you’ll have a 50 to 100 per cent throw out … some of the varieties handle the weather a lot better and they might only have a 20 per cent throw out.”
The damaged fruit in Mr Schultz’s fields will be picked and buried on his farm.
“There’ll be a lot of second-grade fruit in the market and it’s just actually not worth selling,” he said.
Widely varied rainfall tallies for inland Queensland
Parts of inland Queensland have celebrated good soaking rain but other areas have barely notched up anything better than single figures, despite the hype the system would bring widespread rain.
One bright spot was in the Balonne district in the southern inland, which has been affected by drought.
Amelia Sevil from Whyenbah, between St George and Dirranbandi, measured 110mm at the weekend.
Mrs Sevil said she was lucky enough to celebrate with others in her community who had similar good totals.
“It was just lovely and particularly people that you know of — good friends who have really struggled with battling through dry times and empty dams and no water and that sort of thing, so yeah, really heart-warming to see that,” she said.
A little further east, grain farmer Bill Gallagher said the biggest single fall at his place, Langoora near Thallon, was 65mm.
Mr Gallagher said it had come at just the right time for wheat and chickpea planting at his place.
“This is the important one, this is the big one, this is planting time and conditions are just right,” he said.
But it was a different story to the east around the Darling Downs, where Dalby farmer and AgForce Grains president Wayne Newton said many had missed out on rain.
“The falls have been very disappointing, with lots of farmers on that central and northern Darling Downs area not even getting falls into double figures,” he said.
“A considerable number have gone out and dry planted crop on the strength of the forecast, and although that’s always a risky proposition, I think it’s fair to say that the sort of forecast they were given gave them good reason to have crack.”
In central Queensland, gambles of dry planting have paid off for the lucky few who got rain.
Darren Jenson, from Grandview near Biloela, said he deep-sowed his chickpeas to take advantage of the little moisture he had left after only 14mm in late March.
Mr Jenson said this time he had enough rain to guarantee a crop.
“One block only had 22mm, which was just enough because we had dry-sown a little bit of wheat out there as well as chickpeas, but here (in Biloela) we had 31mm and at Jambin we had 40mm,” he said.
More rain for the central-west
Friday delivered some much needed rainfall for parts of central-west Queensland.
It followed rain early in the week that was focused around the Longreach, Muttaburra and Barcaldine areas.
But on Friday, the system dropped its heaviest falls around Blackall.
Grazier Sally Campbell, from Clarenden station north-west of Blackall, measured 103mm on Friday, on top of 15mm she measured earlier in the week.
She said this was her first real fall of rain in more than three years, aAnd she expected to see some pasture growth.
“It was fantastic. All the gutters were overflowing and the thunder was rumbling and it was fantastic,” she said.
“I think it has been so warm for so long and it doesn’t look like it is going to get too cool, so I think it will do some good.
“I can see a response already. It is just raring to go.”
But she was cautious to warn the fall did not signal the end of the drought.
“This is really my first fall and as beneficial as it is, I would certainly like to see another lot the same,” she said.
“But I also really hope this rain is going to fill in the gaps as soon as possible and everyone is going to head towards better times. I think it is time.”
Update, June 10: Bundaberg Sugar has said it will go ahead with the crush on Monday, June 13, after dry warm days allowed the crop to bounce back.