Neutral weather pattern predicted by autumn

The sea surface temperature patterns across the tropical eastern Pacific indicate we are now in a weak to moderate El Nino event.

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The sub surface temperature in these areas confirms that situation.

However, SSTs in the tropical western Pacific and in Coral and Tasman Seas would normally be decreasing with the onset of El Nino.

This is not happening and SSTs in these regions remain warmer than normal.

Also, the atmospheric structure across the Pacific is not reflecting this.

Such a conflict is rare and any prognosis for the future has a lower level of confidence associated with it.

The atmospheric indicators include the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) which continues to increase.

The 30-day running mean remains strongly positive – well within the neutral range and nowhere near the expected El Nino values.

In addition, the trade winds remain near normal across the tropical western Pacific although showing some variability at times due to local synoptic factors.

During normal El Ninos, there is usually a sustained weakening of trade winds across the tropical Pacific.

Finally, cloud cover remains near normal especially near the Date Line in the central Pacific.

Also atmospheric convection remains close to average near the Date Line and suppressed over Indonesia.

Typically, cloud cover would be above average in an El Nino. So an El Nino without normal atmospheric indicators probably means an El Nino without the usual effect on rain patterns.

The majority of the international models continue to favour at least a weak El Nino persisting through summer, with the expectation that the atmospheric circulation will eventually couple to the anomalous equatorial Pacific warmth, but there are no signs of this happening in the immediate future.

So the most likely scenario for eastern Australia is a continuation of occasional “one off” rain events in eastern Australia but such events will continue to be patchy and therefore rainfall will be variable with some areas missing out and others getting useful falls.

Such events are probably going to become less frequent in the coming weeks but may increase again by February especially in eastern and northern NSW and eastern Queensland.

During this time the frequency of high temperatures (those when tops are at least five degrees above the summer norms) are likely to increase in frequency, especially over south-eastern South Australia, Victoria and inland NSW.

With a neutral pattern likely to return from autumn, near average rainfall is favoured for much of 2019 but above average temperatures will persist and so will evaporation levels.

Source: The Land 2018-12

Farmland prices rely on positive fundamentals continuing in ag

A major focus for 2019 will be whether the positive fundamentals in agriculture continue to keep farmland prices climbing.

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A major focus for 2019 will be whether the positive fundamentals in agriculture continue to keep farmland prices climbing, according to ANZ’s InFocus report, released last week.

ANZ head of agribusiness Mark Bennett said over the past 5-10 years, land price growth was driven by factors including high commodity prices, low capital costs allowing farmers to expand, the arrival of a new generation of farmers, and the increasing presence of large-scale corporate farm investors.

In cropping and southern livestock there are various examples of farming land which has continued to appreciate much faster than other indicators, such as GDP and residential housing price growth.

The report noted Australia’s wheat production had effectively halved over the past two years, though a return to normal weather conditions could see this return to an average production figure within two years.

For the beef industry, price movements are forecast to continue to be volatile over coming months, as producers continue to oscillate between holding cattle back in expectation of rain.

Beef demands remain strong, and if rain brings a period of sustained herd rebuilding, then prices could feel consistent upward pressure.

Wool and sheep meat prices are both likely to continue their current strong performances with lamb exports remaining at historic highs.

A recent downturn in prices in the wool industry has been largely attributable to a seasonal slowing in textile production.

However, a forecast tight supply of these 19—21 micron wool types has contributed to a price recovery over recent weeks, with Australian greasy wool production for 2017/18 tipped to be the lowest on record.

Source: Weekly Times 2018-12

More fish deaths expected in Darling River after new algae alert

There are fresh fears of more mass fish deaths in waterways in far western New South Wales after another red alert for blue-green algae.

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Water New South Wales posted the warning for blue-green algae in the upper Darling River at Louth and Trevallyn, near Bourke, on Monday.

Both towns are upstream of the Menindee Lake system, where multiple red alerts are already in place.

The toxic algae has been blamed by fishers for causing the recent deaths of about 10,000 native fish in the river at Menindee, east of Broken Hill.

The water authority has advised people not to swim or drink contaminated water in red alert areas and farmers have been asked to find alternative water sources for livestock.

Water authority spokesman Tony Webber said he expected there would be more fish deaths as dry conditions persisted.

He said there had been significant fish kills already this summer in the Menindee Lakes area and downstream at the Keepit Dam near Tamworth.

“Without significant rainfall, with a continuation of this chronic low flow, and acute drought conditions, the environment is suffering,” Mr Webber said.

Local residents not surprised about new alert

The red alert has come as no surprise to Louth locals, like Shindy’s Inn publican Kathy Barnes.

She said fish were not the creatures dying as the drought tightened it grip on the far west; she said she had seen dead birds along the riverbank.

Ms Barnes said the view of the Darling River from the pub was nothing but a “pothole” of water.

As the river drops to critically low levels, she is worried that the appeal of fishing — a popular activity for tourists — will disappear too.

Water management changes needed says farmer

For grazier Stuart Lelievre, who lives near Louth, the declining water quality in the far west is “typical drought”.

“Even in the millennium drought, we still had six or eight foot of water in [his farm supply] even though it was very salty, but it’s still water,” he said.

There is about six weeks of water in his rainwater tanks and after that supply runs dry, Mr Lelievre said he may have to cart water from Louth. He said he wants to see change around water management to ensure a better water supply.

Back at Shindy’s Inn, Ms Barnes said she can still serve her customers tap water from the pub’s rainwater tanks.

The visitors that come through are shocked at the state of the river and Ms Barnes said their shock may help raise awareness of the severity of the drought in the state’s west.

“When you’re in the city and you hear ‘oh, the drought’ and ‘the drought’s bad’, you don’t really understand until you see it yourself.”

Source: ABC News 2018-12

New voice to support Basin Plan engagement

Killawarra farmer Josh Kirby has been appointed as a Goulburn Murray regional engagement officer by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

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Mr Kirby replaces former regional engagement officer Merrill Boyd who has held the role for the past two years.

MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said Mr Kirby would take on the role in early January, joining six other regional engagement officers.

‘‘The regional engagement officers play a crucial role in the success of the (Murray-Darling) Basin Plan by building strong relationships and ensuring regional Australia has a strong voice in the plan’s implementation,’’ Mr Glyde said.

‘‘We are committed to ensuring people right across the basin have the chance to be involved and have their say on water issues.

‘‘We deliberately recruit experienced people with strong local connections and valuable technical knowledge who can work across catchments and across state borders.’’

Regional engagement officers work with farmers, environmental and community groups, Aboriginal communities, local government and other stakeholders to address the concerns of people most affected by the basin plan.

Mr Kirby has previously worked for Moira Shire Council and Goulburn-Murray Water and currently runs Killawarra Farm, north of Wangaratta, with his wife Clare and their children.

Mr Glyde thanked Ms Boyd for her contribution over the past two years.

‘‘Merrill has been a great conduit from the region to the MDBA,’’ he said.

‘‘She has also been an outstanding representative of the MDBA in the region.

‘‘We appreciate the fine work Ms Boyd has done to help her community understand what is happening in the river system, and her work to relay community issues to the MDBA.’’

Mr Glyde said the regional engagement officers, along with the network of regional offices and the 16-member Basin Community Committee, helped provide community input into basin management and the implementation of the basin plan.

Source: Country News 2018-12

Dairy farmer drought relief plan extended

Advocacy group Dairy Connect has welcomed extension of the dairy farmer drought relief program for up to six more months.

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The Drought Relief Milk Program had provided $3.1million in relief payments to more than 280 drought-affected dairy farmers across NSW, Queensland and Victoria since it began in October.

A limited-edition milk range offers customers the option to buy Woolworths full-cream and Woolworths light milk varieties at $2.20 for two litres and $3.30 for three litres, with 10¢/litre going to dairy farmers in drought-affected areas.

Dairy Connect president Graham Forbes said they were grateful Woolworths had listened to their representations on behalf of dairy producers at this time of year.

‘‘We call on other retailers to immediately follow the positive lead of Woolworths and implement similar programs now,’’ Mr Forbes said.

‘‘This will ensure that dairy farmers who provide their fresh nutritious milk to these supermarkets receive the benefits during these current harsh times.’’

He said the Woolworths drought relief range of milks had been shown to have worked and had provided support to dairy farmers across drought-affected States.

Chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said Dairy Connect had been a major proponent of the Woolworths drought relief initiative since its inception.

‘‘The announcement is great Christmas news for dairy producers and dairy communities on the eastern seaboard who supply Woolworths with fresh nutritious milk via their processors such as Parmalat, who are to be congratulated,’’ Mr Morgan said.

‘‘Our farmer members have used the Woolies drought relief funds during the past three or four months to underpin the cost of buying-in fodder for their cows.

‘‘This has allowed some producers to slow the process of destocking that had been brought about by dwindling fodder supplies on dairy farms across Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

‘‘Importantly, the industry has also welcomed the ongoing and sympathetic support of Woolworths consumers who have supported the drought relief program and purchased the specially marked milk.

‘‘While many producers have welcomed recent rain storms, the impact of drought persists as dairy farming families and communities move into Christmas and the new year.’’

Source: Country News 2018-12

Murray River boosted by environmental flows

Water for the environment has started to flow along the Murray River now that transfers of consumptive water have been reduced.

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Murray-Darling Basin Authority head of river management Andrew Reynolds said about 3000Ml/day of environmental water was now flowing through the system, delivering environmental benefits throughout the Murray River and down to the Coorong.

‘‘It is timely that this water is able to be accommodated along with high volumes of consumptive water now,’’ he said.

‘‘Low inflows and dry conditions limited our plans to deliver water for the environment during the spring because channel capacity was taken up moving water to where it will be needed to meet peak demand during summer.

‘‘All basin governments have recognised the need to work through how we can better integrate the needs of the environment along with other water users’ needs, so that water for the environment can get the best possible environmental outcomes.’’

During spring about 15000Ml/day had been released from upstream storages to increase Lake Victoria levels and meet early season irrigation demands.

‘‘We expect to be maintaining higher flows into December, with water for the environment reducing to about 1000Ml/day towards the end of the month,’’ Mr Reynolds said.

‘‘The low inflows and dry conditions, coupled with the need to conserve as much water as possible to meet demands over a forecast hot and dry summer, made river operations this season especially challenging.

‘‘The rules that govern river operations developed over more than 100 years to support irrigation and we now need to update those rules so that we can manage the river for the environment as well.’’

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik welcomed the commitment from all basin states to work together to balance the needs of irrigation and the environment.

‘‘Our inability to use our water this spring has had an impact on the environmental outcomes we will achieve this year and will mean that we carry more water over into next year,’’ Ms Swirepik said.

‘‘Water for the environment needs to be able to be used in the places and at the times that allow the best outcomes, especially during dry times — because just as farmers and communities feel the effects of drought, so does the river system they depend on.

‘‘It’s the right time to work through these issues with the states so that the community can have ongoing confidence that the basin plan will deliver a healthier basin for the environment, communities and industries.’’

Source: Country News 2018-12

Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life

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