Monday, January 19, 2015


Drought is widely regarded in agricultural terms as a prolonged period of low rainfall when pastures and crops become seriously degraded by dehydration.

Yes last spring was one of low precipitation in many districts and having traveled the East coast from North Otago to The Bay of Plenty in the last 50 days there are now pockets with fodder insufficiency from "The Dry" but drought it aint.

Large Parts of Australia have been in that situation for several years and many rural properties are in a savage drought. With livestock having lost a serious degree of body weight, water supplies gone burger and absolutely zero opportunity to remove stock as buyers do not exist, increasing numbers of Aussie Farmers are taking their lives as despair overcomes their will to continue.

Talk of Drought here is a little overwrought, we have had lower rainfall in many districts and possibly the best summer weather in many years for those who can unashamably enjoy such benefits but after disastrous floods late last Autumn and options aplenty to remove stock threatened with  a shortage of appropriate fodder supplies, talk of drought is just a bit previous.

However to the  talking heads who daily justify their place in the world of infotainment it seems good copy, but much of the output is merely Male Bovine Excrement.
One such bimbo last week ran off at her gob when predicting showers on the East Coast would bring relief to drought ravaged farmers.
Sorry Ms Bimbo,  such cooler temperatures and minimal precipitation wont make a single positive move to alleviate dry pastures and non-irrigated crops, although such weather  relief will make some small advances in effectiveness of irrigation.
Growing plants in moisture stress need in excess of 50mm over days to make any viable difference, with soil penetration of at least 40mm, anything less will only create more problems than solutions.
Last Summers low alpine snowfalls and an absence of Wet Westerlies have created lowflow problems in many of the East flowing river systems from Otago to East Cape, reducing irrigation takes but some of that results in bans based on arbitrary limits that have little basis in reality.
When the Amuri Plains races and Borderdyke system was built in the 1970s the minimum flow allowing the water take was set at 12Cubic meters a second. when reviewed some 30 years on it was decided that that would double to 24 cumecs.
In the history of the flows in the Waiau before and since the advent of the Amuri plains scheme I am unaware of any threat eventuating from low flows at the 12 cumec figure.
Similarly with the Waitaki river, along with the Waikato the most developed Hydro generation systems in our country. Rather than bureaucratically declining irrigation takes why not review possible storage enhancement and water management protocols to provide the needed irrigation water in high use periods.

Most settled agricultural areas of NZ can expect rains to regenerate plant growth in late February through March and it will only be should that fail to occur that I will entertain thoughts of "Drought" in the meantime it is a glorious summer "Dry" and god knows we all remember those from our childhood.

1 comment:

Tinman said...

Our childhood (mine followed yours after several years) did not see debt-laden agriculture of a type wholly dependant on large quantities of water.

In this case it is not just the slime crying "drought" but also many non-farmers who have established units on unsuitable land without considering climate history.

Years ago I assisted a friend to farm through a South Canterbury drought.

I know first hand the heartbreak amid bloody hard work. Genuine cockies suffering a big dry have my empathy and my sympathy.

I have, however no sympathy at all for those gamblers blinded by potential profit.