South Canterbury cropping farmers ruing wet start to spring

Lyalldale farmer Michael Porter can't drill his paddock due to the wet weather.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Lyalldale farmer Michael Porter can't drill his paddock due to the wet weather.

Arable farmers are stuck playing a "waiting game" to get their crops in the ground as consistent wet weather continues.

But for livestock farmers, the damp has meant a good start to the season.

Federated Farmers arable chairperson and crop farmer Michael Porter, who is based at Lyalldale, near St Andrews, said wet, late winter weather had continued into the spring.

That meant farmers like him were struggling to plant their spring seeds.

"If you are trying to get spring crops in the ground like I am it's a complete mess, the season has just been a complete mess.

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"The ground conditions have been wetter than normal since mid to late harvest through until now, we just haven't had those fine weather windows that open up and allow you to get things done."

The fortunes of some crop farmers were in contrast to those who had either already got their seeds in the ground or were running livestock.

"For them this would have to be considered a really good start to the season, so it depends which position you are in."

Porter said just when it looked like arable farmers were "going to be really getting into it, we get another shower of rain".

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With "things being so wet underneath" because of the wet end to winter, "the moisture can't go downwards, it can only go upwards".

"We are just waiting, we are just playing a waiting game."

Porter said the wet weather meant the timelines farmers were working to, in terms of the cut off for getting certain crops in the ground, were having to change and move further into the season.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) forecaster Ben Noll said Timaru's September rainfall total, of 30.6mm, was almost "bang on" with the monthly average of of 34.6.

However more southerly parts of South Canterbury had experience higher than normal rainfall.

"From just south of Timaru ... to North Otago, they have had above September rainfall, there was a small pocket that did have a wetter September, about 140 to 160 per cent of normal rainfall.

"The wetter patterns were caused by lower than normal air pressures over the Tasman Sea.

"Those spilled onto New Zealand so the Tasman Sea was an active place during the month of September, and that resulted in regular instances of rainfall moving across the country."

Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Mark Adams, who farms near Fairlie, said the rainfall may have been average close to Timaru, but where he was the rain had come in "dollops".

"It's more the distribution of rainfall, it's not been the normal amount falling.

"We have just had near an inch of rainfall, we are back to being very wet ... but it's not really affected lambing."

Adams echoed Porter's sentiments that the wet winter had carried on into spring.

He said the ideal formula was for a few days of rain "little and often, with heat in between, that's the magical formula, moisture and heat".

 - Stuff

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