March 27, 2013
The creation of a Flinders River agriculture precinct took a small step forward when Blue Ribbon Seeds planted a trial plot of 50ha of rice and 250ha of mungbean on land leased from Silver Hills station last December. But with all new projects there is always a stumbling block or two and this project is under some threat from the lack of water. Blue Ribbon’s James Hunt is managing the project and believes the 250ha of mungbean will be fine with just one more watering and they will harvest a good crop at the end of May. “But we could be in trouble with the rice crop. Although we got a beautiful strike there may not be enough water to see it through,” Mr Hunt said. Rice needs about 15 megalitres/ha to grow a successful crop and there is only enough water in the Silver Hills ring tank for one more watering. If there is not meaningful rain within a month the crop is doomed. Mr Hunt said he was confident that the Department of Agriculture, forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) will increase the amount of water available for flood harvesting from the Flinders River but the river is now unlikely to run again until next wet season. “I think DAFF has got to consider allowing the use of limited supplies of ground water to supplement the flood harvest at times like this,” he said. “Seven years out of eight it will not be required but in a year like this one 200ML would finish this crop off.” Mr Hunt said Blue Ribbon is now looking at varieties of rice from Brazil and Paraguay which grow-out on natural rainfall but these varieties usually yield 5-6 tonne/ha compared to 10 tonne/ha of the variety he has planted on Silver Hills.