Dire straits for farm growers
DWINDLING supplies and worsening quality of water have had a devastating impact on livestock and produce farmers, inflicting continual hardship on operators, and driving up prices for customers.
"Water levels have declined significantly, and also the quality of water is degrading,” Gregory Teske, a horticultural agronomist from Elders Rural Service in Gatton said.
"What I mean by that is we're seeing more salt coming through, as well as magnesium, sulphur, and chloride becoming more concentrated.”
These higher concentrations of contaminants can directly impact the plants, but also have a detrimental effect on the soil.
Growers are being forced to be more conservative with their limited water supplies.
"Growers have changed their irrigation practices, a lot more now are using trickle tape, and being more efficient with their water,” Gregory said.
Purchasing the filters, pipes, and other materials required for these measures inflicts further costs on already-struggling farmers.
Fortunately, some growers have already had this equipment on-hand, and have been able to ease into using these methods.
"The last drought we had in the early 2000's, a lot of growers had to spend the money on that kind of infrastructure, and they've kept it,” Gregory said.
While these measures will help farmers hold on a little longer, the industry will continue to suffer without a significant rain event.
"Every time you get a rainfall event, 10, 20, 30 millimetres, all the crops brighten up. Even the atmosphere a rain event produces certainly helps as well,” Gregory said.
"When you don't get any natural rainfall, the crops don't grow as well, to the extent that they're suffering a certain amount of stress.”
Given how long the drought has already lasted, summer will be a make-or-break point.
"If we don't get significant rainfall over this coming summer, there's a number of growers who'll be in dire straits,” he said.
"I don't want to make it seem like it's doomsday, because there are areas that still have a reasonable amount of water, but we need a major rain event to replenish the area.”