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Tech & Science Farmers are still managing to harvest crops in drought. Here's how they're doing it

05:05  27 november  2019
05:05  27 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

Hobart could face water restrictions as city's demand spikes, irrigators asked to slash usage

  Hobart could face water restrictions as city's demand spikes, irrigators asked to slash usage Hobart is using 10 megalitres of water a day more than it was a year ago, and farmers are being asked to slash their irrigation usage as supply in the state's south buckles under demand.TasWater CEO Mike Brewster said demand in the city was about 10 megalitres a day more than this time last year.

Before complex irrigation systems, farmers still managed to eke out crops even in the worst droughts . As water shortages become more common, today’ s farmers are being forced to return to old ways of finding the water hidden in nature.

Additionally, they spread some cover crops to eroded areas in a few fields. The next spring, Doug had to admit that the soil texture on that strip was better. Despite the support for cover cropping in Indiana, there is still resistance to change. Farmers are notoriously reluctant to offer their neighbors

Farmers are desperate to prevent topsoil from blowing away in dust storms during the drought. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)© Provided by ABC News Farmers are desperate to prevent topsoil from blowing away in dust storms during the drought. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Dust storms have become part of daily life in central-west New South Wales, as wind whips up dry soil and sends it flying.

Mark Swift has watched as it has blown onto his property and he has noted how "constant" it has become.

"It can't be good for your health," he said.

SunRice sheds more jobs as Murray Darling Basin Plan 'failing the rice industry'

  SunRice sheds more jobs as Murray Darling Basin Plan 'failing the rice industry' One of Australia's largest food exporters will lose more jobs in the new year after failing to entice growers to plant rice crops. SunRice will shed 100 more jobs at its mills and grain-storage sites in southern New South Wales.Since last November, 230 jobs have been cut at the food manufacturer.The 2019 rice harvest was the second-lowest on record, with low allocations and high prices for water making rice production an impossible undertaking for many growers.SunRice had hoped to counter these challenges by offering record prices for 2020 crops to entice growers to plant and buy water.

With 99% of the state covered by one of the three drought categories, farmers are doing all they can to protect Wayne and Lynette Culverson are undoubtedly in drought . But the couple, who run Dohne sheep across three properties “ Farmers will reassess and figure out how to manage ,” Sonia says.

Genetically modified crops that are drought resistant will be grown by farmers within four to five years, according to Drought -tolerant oilseed rape plants, which have been in field trials in the American Mid-West, Colorado and "Plant scientists are still working out how plants cope with water shortage."

But Mr Swift, and his wife Katrina Swift, were most concerned about the environmental damage of the dust storms, as precious topsoil disappears from their farming region and beyond.

"We thought the noughties' drought was bad," he said.

"I'd have it back any day of the week at the moment compared to what we're dealing with."

Investing in drought-tolerant technologies

Since that notorious drought, their family business has made significant changes.

Mr Swift has de-stocked and invested in new research and technology to help improve soil quality.

"It's a whole range of things. It's stubble retention, managing fallows over summer where we control weeds where we're not growing crops, and it's less disturbance of our soil," he said.

Why Australia’s $1 billion drought relief package will fail small farmers and rural communities

  Why Australia’s $1 billion drought relief package will fail small farmers and rural communities Morrison's drought relief package is a quick fix to a political problem that fails to consider the emerging economics of drought. Hitting the political targetThe bulk of the $1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund. The terms of the 10-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past. They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year. require(["inlineoutstreamAd", "c.

Despite years of severe drought , Jordanian farmers are managing to stay afloat because of the efforts of Al-Hima, a not-for-profit NGO focused When it comes to harvesting , they support us,” he says. It means Jordanian farmers have experienced unprecedented challenges in cultivating crops .

They have managed to drought -proof them despite bad yields to the extent that farmers are not running losses and all the payments for their crop are promptly This will be ready in a month. We will also use the knowledge we have gained here to work with other crops , both here and elsewhere.”

"It's also what goes on in the background, like breeding programs to improve the resilience of our seed varieties."

And Mr Swift said the results spoke for themselves.

"We're growing more grain now than we were in previous droughts that we thought were pretty bad," he said.

Technology like soil probes have been helping with testing moisture levels, allowing the couple to make educated decisions on when and what to plant.

Ms Swift said the other big lesson was to keep some crop, or cover, on the ground.

"Groundcover is key in extreme conditions like this," she said.

"It stops wind erosion, water erosion, and holds the soil particles together."

The barley crop the family managed to grow this year has been poor quality.

But instead of cutting it for hay to make quick cash it has been left to shade the ground.

As a result there was no dust.

"It also means our soil microbes and things can survive year on year, and we haven't got to re-establish a whole ecosystem underneath the ground again when the drought breaks," Ms Swift said.

Farmers are critical of drought relief fund: ‘there is no money on the table’

  Farmers are critical of drought relief fund: ‘there is no money on the table’ Farmer Susie Rae has criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition’s drought relief fund, telling Sky News the Christmas period “is going to be dire” and there “is no money on the table” from the government in the form of drought aid. The Narromine farmer told Sky News host Alan Jones and Peta Credlin that, while the government may have announced a drought relief fund with all the trimmings, most farmers are yet to see a cent to help. “Scott Morrison is not listening – there is no money on the table,” Mrs Rae said.

Farm subsidies Milking taxpayers. As crop prices fall, farmers grow subsidies instead. To this day, to be treated as a farmer in America doesn’t necessarily require you to grow any crops . American farm subsidies are egregiously expensive, harvesting billion a year from taxpayers’ pockets.

"Automation is the future of farming , but we ' re at a stage where farm machinery has got to unsustainable sizes," Franklin told The Times. He believes smaller, smarter vehicles are the future, as they can work with greater precision and reduce harmful soil compaction.

No-till farming for surviving drought

Most farmers are desperate to avoid seeing their paddocks become a dustbowl, including John Gladigau, who has been farming with business partner, Robin Schaefer, on the sandy soils of Loxton in the South Australian Mallee region.

He recalled that during the 1982 drought there was "not a blade of grass" on the farm.

"There was nothing. It was just erosion. That was it," Mr Gladigau said.

Since then the business has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in no-till farming, or growing crops without disturbing the soil.

And the picture now is very different.

"So this year, while we still have some eroded patches, we could argue that 95 per cent of our farming area is covered [and] isn't eroded — isn't blowing away," Mr Gladigau said.

While the machinery required for no-till farming has been expensive, Mr Schaefer said the long-term environmental benefits made it worthwhile.

"It enables us to be able to plant our crops dry because we know they're not going to get blasted by wind with any sand, or anything [else]," he said.

Tasmania's green drought is no longer green

  Tasmania's green drought is no longer green Farmers in Tasmania's Central Highlands are destocking and hand-feeding their sheep after not seeing a good rain for at least eight months.Properties surrounding the central town of Bothwell have not seen much-needed rain in many months.

And this fall, farmers are harvesting 50,000 acres of the cotton planted with Indigo’ s first product, designed to help That’ s exactly what Indigo has spent the past several years doing . With its network of collaborators, the This fall’ s cotton crop , sprayed with Indigo’ s first commercial bacteria product, will be the true test of how much bacteria can improve a harvest in a world challenged by drought .

Here bullocks still pull ploughs as they have always done , their dung is still dried on the walls of houses and used to cook food. Dominic Glover, a British researcher working with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, has spent years analysing the introduction of GM crops in developing

"And they're protected in amongst the stubble, and so that enables us to make use of every single drop of rain that falls.

"So as soon as the first rain comes, the plants get up and germinate and get up [and] start growing."

It is why they would like to see farmers rewarded for looking after the land.

Progressive farming finds environmental solutions

Australian Farm Institute executive director, Richard Heath, said some progressive farmers had been making the most of a "small number of grants and schemes" available, but the market needed to be expanded.

"The sorts of services that are delivered from farmland are sequestering carbon, delivering clean air and clean water," he said.

"That adds to tourism value and the value of the landscape.

"There are lots of ways those services can be monetised or valued in a way that rewards farmers for protecting them … which is obviously of great benefit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

The Federal Government is in the early stages of developing a $34-million trial to give farmers money to improve biodiversity on farms.

Mr Swift said such an approach would be critical for future generations because farmers managing in this drought would struggle without significant rainfall next year.

"I don't know what we'll do," he said.

"There won't be groundcover anywhere."

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Coles to pay $5.25m to dairy farmers after failing to pass on drought levy .
Coles will pay dairy farmers at least $5 million after the competition watchdog found the supermarket giant failed to pass on a drought levy on fresh milk. About 200 dairy farms will receive $10,000 each after the ACC threatened to take Coles to court for short-changing its own brand milk supplier since April. In March, Coles announced it would be increasing the price of its own milk by 10 cents per litre to raise money for drought-stricken farmers However complaints were made that Coles wasn’t paying farmers the amount it promised.The competition watchdog said farmers who missed out would be fully compensated.

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