FARMERS across the region spent September praying for rain but their pleas have gone unanswered after the Bureau of Meteorology recorded the driest September on record.
The Ararat region experienced just 9.8 millimetres in September, compared with 51.2mm in September 2017 and a long-term average of 60.8mm.
Stawell had a lower figure, with just 7.6mm of rain received compared to 31.8mm in 2017 and a long-term average of 49.2mm.
Both regions had higher than average rainfall in August, with 29mm of rain above the long-term median for Stawell and 23mm more for Ararat.
However, Perennial Pastures Systems project manager Rob Shea said the extra rain had done little to make up for the September shortage that followed, and that the organisation’s soil monitoring had shown a sharp decline in soil moisture.
“Things have changed rapidly. They weren’t too bad in the region till about two or three weeks ago. But the area north of the divide is drying off very rapidly,” he said.
“Our group’s got a network of moisture probes in the soil which measure soil moisture in 10 centimetre increments and they have gone down in the last three weeks rapidly, showing that the soil is really dry.”
Although the region both north and south of the divide hadn’t reached drought conditions, Mr Shea said farmers who grew crops were starting to think about making hard decisions.
“I’m just east of Stawell – crops here are right on the edge of people deciding whether to cut for hay or wait for another bit of rain that’s forecast to take it through,” he said.
“North of Stawell those decisions have already been made – especially for canola crops.”
The dire figures follow one of the warmest Winters on record for the nation.
Bureau of Meteorology manager of long range forecasting Dr Andrew Watkins said much of the eastern mainland had experienced an exceptionally dry 2018 and the outlook is not great news for farmers in drought-impacted parts of the country.
"Like all Australians, all of us at the Bureau of Meteorology are hoping those affected by the drought will get the rain they need soon,” he said.
"Unfortunately, our outlooks show odds favouring a drier and warmer than average spring for many areas."
Mr Shea said that Perennial Pasture Systems would soon organise a forum to help local farmers deal with ongoing dry conditions, as although “people aren’t facing drought like dusty paddocks we’re seeing in New South Wales it’s going to be tough.”
“We’re looking to organise a dry season workshop in Joel Joel November 7 in partnership with Agriculture Victoria and Project Platypus and other parties, and we’re looking at a response into planning stock management,” he said.