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Severe Drought in Australia; Winter Wheat, Barley, Canola Planting on Hold

An extended period of severe drought across east-central Australia has put the planting of winter wheat, barley, and canola on hold, and has long-range weather forecasts indicating an impending El Niño event beginning in the third quarter of this year.

Rainfall in Queensland and northern New South Wales has been significantly below historic averages since February, while the last widespread rain event across the region was far back in October 2017. Frequent droughts are common in Australia, a country experienced in dealing with such challenges, however, current conditions have left some water systems at 36.9 percent to 55.5 percent of normal - a bad place to be when facing an oncoming El Niño. Ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have been rising over recent weeks, with great potential that September will see an acceleration of the warming trend, giving rise to expectations that the third quarter of this year will begin an El Niño that could lead to further drought conditions for yet another year.

Grain crops including winter wheat, barley, and canola that are normally planted beginning in mid-April have been put on hold from northern New South Wales into Queensland, with the exception of in irrigated areas. The few weak rain events that have occurred have not provided enough moisture to support dryland planting, germination, and emergence in the region.

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