AUS: Drought cuts production, sets record for assistance
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics has estimated a winter grain crop production of 36 million tonnes, down 11% on last year's quantity. Wheat, the main grain crop, is expected to be 9% down at 22.8 million tonnes. There has been poor autumn rainfall in every state except SA. Elsewhere, grain growers have been delaying sowing waiting for rain that so far has failed to fall. QLD and NSW are forecast to show the largest grain crop falls of 20 and 14% respectively. The winter crop in WA, which is the country's largest wheat producer, is expected to drop 13% after many grain areas experienced their driest Autumn on record. In NW Vic, where about 80% of the Mallee's crops have been sown and have germinated, continuing dry weather exaccerbated by frosts has caused many to fail to produce secondary root systems, and some to die altogether. Department of Primary Industries agronomist Rob Sonogan told ABC Radio "I've actually sighted a couple of situations, very small areas in paddocks, where the crops have actually died. I've never seen it before ever in June. We're actually in new ground at the moment on the issue of crop survival."
In QLD, the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority has approved almost $61m in drought assistance so far this financial year under the Exceptional Circumstances program, the largest payout in the authority's 12 years of operation. Assistance was sought by nearly 2,500 producers, almost a third of which were first-time applicants.
Meanwhile, news from Goulburn, the city hardest hit by drought, is that beer is now being served in plastic cups to save washing-up water, and many of the city's sports ovals have been closed because they are so dry their surfaces are rock-hard. The city continues to operate on level 5 water restrictions, the highest category.
WA: Rare temperature inversion carries distant gunfire to Perth. The sound of a 127mm cannon being fired by HMAS Warramunga during a naval exercise 80km west of Perth was heard across the city soon after 6 this morning. The boom, loud enough to rattle windows, was heard as far away as Serpentine, 50km SSE of the capital. A strong temperature inversion, aided by light westerly winds in the lower atmosphere, funnelled the sound ashore.
NSW, SE QLD: Heavy coastal showers continue. Heavy showers occurred along the length of the NSW coast and continued in SE QLD today and overnight into Thursday. The rain map for the 24 hours to 9am Thursday shows between 10 and 50mm fell along a very narrow band close to the coastline as moist easterly winds were lifted by an unstable atmosphere and trough above. There were some particularly heavy showers (see downpours for today and tomorrow morning). Sydney Airport recorded 11.2mm in half an hour to midday, while in the early hours of Thursday morning Norah Head recorded 15mm in 30 minutes.
NT: Cold morning in the SW. Cold nights are lingering in the southern NT. Yuendumu, 270km NW of Alice Springs, equalled its lowest June temperature of -1.1 this morning in a 41-year history, while Alice Springs itself has recorded sub-zero minima on 10 of the past 15 mornings. The average temperature for the month so far at the town's airport is 0.6 compared with the average for June of 5.2.