A new high-tech government system for assessing seasonal conditions suggests the Riverina could be on the cusp of a drought.
The NSW Government on Wednesday unveiled new technology that it says will give faster and more detailed seasonal conditions information, enabling farmers to make better-informed decisions.
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the new Enhanced Drought Indicator System (EDIS) drew on the latest remote sensing, satellite and climate data to provide a more detailed assessment of seasonal conditions.
A map based on the EDIS data has described the Riverina as being “drought onset”, just one level down from the most serious “drought” level, or “drought watch”, the next level down.
The EDIS was launched just days ahead of predicted rain for Wagga, which may improve the outlook for farmers.
Predictions have varied, but currently between 10 and 20 millimetres of rain is expected on Sunday.
At this time of the year, farmers have to decide whether to start sowing winter crops in anticipation of rain, or hold off to see if there are adequate falls likely before they commit to the cost of planting crops.
Grahame McDougall, from the Coolamon-Ganmain branch of NSW Farmers, said he was not aware of many farmers who had already begun sowing winter crops.
Mr McDougall said some crops did not need to be sown until mid to late-June, so farmers still had some time to make decisions on whether or not to commit to cropping.
However, he said farmers often planted some wheat or oats early in the hope the would provide green feed for sheep.
Nigel Smedley from the Bureau of Meteorology at Wagga said autumn in the southern part of NSW was expected to be warmer and drier than average.
According to Mr Blair, the goal of the EDIS was to provide farmers with as much information as possible in challenging times.
“Making the right decision early, based on solid information, is key to minimising the potentially crippling effects of drought,” he said.
“This technology allows farmers to have more power and more certainty when making those on farm decisions.”
Mr Blair said the EDIS would be the backbone of the government’s new states seasonal update, which was released on Wednesday as a prototype to replace the previous seasonal conditions reports.
“EDIS will become even more detailed next month with the release of a new app to allow farmers to record and share information about conditions on individual properties,” he said.