The Murrumbidgee Valley, where the Andreazza family farms, has a 7 per cent general security water allocation and the temporary price for water is trading around $500 a megalitre.
“With the price of water at the moment, it’s probably not feasible to grow much, and it was tough to decide whether to sell the water or use it to grow crops,” Mr Andreazza said.
“But growing a crop helps with your mental stability, it’s actually pleasing to walk around something that is growing, it makes you feel better. I don’t like looking at bare paddocks.”
To ensure they can continue to farm under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and with reduced water allocations and drought, the Andreazzas developed a water portfolio that includes a mix of bore water, high security water, and general security water.
They also recycle water in their cropping program.
“All the water that comes onto the farm stays on the farm and is reused — it’s just so precious,” Mr Andreazza said.
Getting the numbers to stack up
Chris Morshead also planted corn for the first time on his property at Widgelli near Griffith.
His cropping program is based on “whatever makes the most money”.
Chris Morshead is also growing maize on his property near Griffith in southern NSW for the first time this year.
ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery
Mr Morshead will harvest the corn crop in the next week and was keen to see its value.
“Looking at it now, I don’t think it will yield anything spectacular, it’s just been too hot this summer with too many days above 46 degrees,” he said.
“But hopefully I am pleasantly surprised when I get the header in the paddock.
“I’ll need to yield 12 to 14 tonnes a hectare for the numbers to stack up.”
Mr Morshead usually planted 130 hectares of rice and 260 hectares of cotton, but was keen to trial corn and sunflowers this season.
“We are trying to get a bigger spread in our summer crop armoury,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how much water it uses, it’s about the return per megalitre.”
Corn more water efficient, says grower
Maize Association of Australia chair Bernie Walsh from Leeton is not a newcomer to growing corn.
He swapped out rice for corn more than 30 years ago as he found it more water efficient and better suited to the soil on his property.
Mr Walsh said water use was dependent on the variety of corn but ranged from five to 10 megalitres a hectare with yields of 16 tonnes a hectare now common.
“And the price is good at the moment at about $400 to $420 a tonne.”
He was not concerned there would be an oversupply as there was strong demand domestically for corn for stockfeed and human consumption.
“If water becomes a lot cheaper and the price stays where it is there could be a glut, but I can’t see that happening,” he said.
Near future not looking bright for rice
In the Murray Valley region, in the southern Riverina, general security water allocation remains at 0 per cent.
Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo said this season only one of his farmers had grown rice.
“Last year I had 30 growers putting in rice, so this is a monumental step backwards,” Mr Dellwo said.
Rice headers are a rare sight in paddocks in the Riverina this year.
ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery
“Zero water allocation didn’t allow for many growers to have the confidence to plant very much summer crop at all,” he said.
Mr Dellwo said some growers were able to grow reduced crops of corn, cotton, sorghum and lucerne from bore water allocations.
He said it was a very difficult time for farmers in the Murray Valley as water allocations had not improved in time for their autumn planting.
“For many farmers, it’s the first time in a long time they haven’t planted a rice crop and now moving onto their winter cropping program is going to be very difficult as they are still sitting on zero water allocation,” he said.
Last year around 600,000 tonnes of rice was grown in the Riverina, while SunRice has forecast the 2019 crop to be the second smallest recorded since the millennium drought in 2003 when 400,000 tonnes of rice was delivered.