FROM LITTLE THINGS: (From left) Meghan, 9, Kinley, 7, and Timmy Crothers, 11, are eager to see the fields of sunflowers on their family farm at Willowvale flourish.
FROM LITTLE THINGS: (From left) Meghan, 9, Kinley, 7, and Timmy Crothers, 11, are eager to see the fields of sunflowers on their family farm at Willowvale flourish. Elyse Wurm

Sunflowers late after hail storm wipes out crops

THE cheery sight of sunflowers hasn't hit the Southern Downs yet, as inconsistent rainfall and wild storms affect local crops.

Willowvale farmer Phil Crothers said the season was very patchy as rainfall had blessed some with moisture while others were left dry.

The Crothers were forced to replant their crop late, as their original crop was wiped out by a hail storm in November.

Mr Crothers said he replanted in the first week of January,

"We have taken a high risk on planting some crop later than you otherwise would like to and on less moisture,” he said.

"Hopefully we will still have a sunflower crop, but it'll be much later than it was.”

Mr Crothers said planting so late was a one-in-twenty year scenario and could affect the final product.

"The risks associated with planted them later is they could be flowering into moist, cooler conditions that can bring on diseases,” he said.

With barley wiped out in the storm too, the family was left with little choice but to push ahead.

"We would spread our risk over a few different crops, corn as well as sunflowers and chickpeas as well as wheat and barley,” he said.

"So you haven't got all your eggs in one basket if that basket has a hole in it.

"The way the season has turned out, our hand has been forced to be more in the corn and sunflowers because the planting window (for other crops) had closed by the time we had enough moisture in the soil to plant.”

The setback has been expensive, but Mr Crothers said it was part of the gamble of farming.

Some in the Darling Downs are winning the betting, with stellar crops popping up in the centre of the region.

"Some of clients are having the best season, then there are plenty that are having a shocker, it's just one of those years,” Mr Crothers said.

"Everyone has their turn, we had a pretty reasonable season last year,” he said.

The Crothers' sunflower crops have just started to pop up out of the ground, so all energy is being put into ensuring they grow into strong, healthy blooms by mid-March.

Felton farmer Bob Free is one of the lucky landholders having a great sunflower season, crediting good ground moisture.

"They haven't suffered through this dry as much as they could have because we had they had the water under them,” he said.

But Mr Free said spectators should get in quick, as the flowers will begin to blacken in the next two weeks.



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