Poor wet season puts Australian farmers under the pump

Extra water needed to produce Northern Territory rambutans

Extra water was needed to produce rambutans in the Northern Territory this year, as farmers struggled with the drier-than-average wet season. The tropical fruit thrives in monsoonal conditions, but with less rain this year, growers had to irrigate their plantations more to get the crop to harvest.

Grower Kerry Eupene, said he used around 50 per cent more water this season: "We used more water this year, absolutely," he told ABC Rural. "After we got flower-set, we realised the tree vigour wasn't up to scratch, so we increased our watering by close to 50 per cent over normal times. We've never had to increase the water by that amount."

Eupene said if a changing climate meant Top End growers had to deal with higher temperatures, it would put a strain on Darwin rural area's already stressed aquifers.

"If the heat continues and we get more years like this, it'll affect the amount of water we have to put on [the crop]. We've been working on data that's come from periods when it wasn't as hot as this, so we might need to review the water allocations for the crops to get a yield from them.... it's a dilemma."

Eupene called the 2018/19 rambutan season patchy, but demand for the fruit "was the best it had ever been", with the prices around the Chinese New Year being particularly good.


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