DRY: Emerald grower and president of the Central Highlands Cotton Growers and Irrigators Association Aaron Kiely.
DRY: Emerald grower and president of the Central Highlands Cotton Growers and Irrigators Association Aaron Kiely. Kristen Booth

Emerald growers cry out for more rain

OFF the back of one of rural Australia's most challenging winter seasons, growers have their hopes pinned on a successful summer crop.

Emerald grower and president of the Central Highlands Cotton Growers and Irrigators Association, Aaron Kiely, said that both winter and summer rainfall has been below average throughout the region.

He went on to describe the rainfall as being "sporadic” in areas.

"There's been some good falls in areas, but not widespread,” he said.

Mr Kiely said he was disappointed with the rainfall out west from ex-tropical cyclone Owen, calling it a "fizzer”.

"It got a lot of peoples hopes up with the forecast and it didn't arrive, it was disappointing for the whole region,” he said.

"Unless we get some good rainfall soon, there won't be a lot crops planted at this stage.”

According to Mr Kiely, the cotton planting window ends on December 30. He said the Central Highlands cotton plant is above half of what is normally grown, with around 170ha planted this season on his property 7km east of Emerald.

"Like most growers in the area, we have spread our irrigations out with the water allocation we received on July 1, hoping for summer rain which as yet hasn't come,” he said.

"We pushed our waters from seven days out to 10 which has got us through to crop cut out in early December, we are on our last irrigation now.”

Mr Kiely said he had his fingers crossed and was remaining hopeful for that summer rain that is still yet to eventuate.

"With our one-third of what we grow our crop is looking good, we have dropped a bit of fruit in the last couple of weeks with the heat, but overall happy” he said.

"What we need is more than 100mm of good steady rain throughout the region to make it all happen.

"Most importantly, what we need is rain in the Fairbairn Dam catchment to give people an allocation and opportunity to plant a summer crop.

"It's tough at the moment for all of us.”

Despite the current storage level of Fairbairn Dam sitting at 15.93 per cent, Mr Kiely said Emerald growers are still getting their allocated water delivered on time.

"SunWater have done a great job this season,” he said.

"Growers on the Fairbairn Dam irrigation scheme have planted to the water they were allocated.”