Orange, NSW, district cherry growers have been forced to start watering their crops months earlier than usual due to a serious lack of rain.
Nashdale grower Guy Gaeta said he had been in the business for 32 years and had never seen it this dry.
Mr Gaeta said farmers normally started watering their crops in summer but this season he had been forced to start early – using up water reserves he might crucially need closer to harvest time.
It's a really bad start to the season.
He said the region had been hit by a “green drought.”
Mr Gaeta said there was green grass in the fields but the ground was so hard from a lack of rain it was threatening the crops’ growth.
“I have already started watering the trees,” he said.
“It’s a really bad start to the season.”
“I’ve been [growing cherries] for 32 years and I’ve never watered before December before.
“It’s a real dilemma.
“All the district are the same.”
He said the forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology [BOM] was not promising with little rain likely in October.
Mr Gaeta said farmers might be forced to cut out some paddocks to concentrate their water reserves on less trees to ensure they had fruit for picking in December/January.
He said he had supply for only eight weeks of watering.
NSW Cherry Growers Association president Fiona Hall said the situation was being felt across the region.
Mrs Hall said water reserves were down to 50 per cent, compared to full storage 12 months ago, after a dry winter.
“Water storage is the problem,” she said.
“We need a good downpour, we need the run-off.”
She said a “couple of inches” [50 milllimetres] of rain was urgently needed.
“It’s blossom time so we don’t need wild crazy weather that would knock the blossoms off.
“A couple of inches would be good,” she said.
She said farmers also needed water to grow apples which are picked after the cherries.
The BOM is forecasting a 50/50 chance of rainfall over the next three months in Orange to be above or below the median of 183mm.
It is forecasting there is a 100 per cent chance of at least 25mm falling in the period.
However, it is giving only a 49 per cent chance of 200mm of rain falling by December.
And in the short term there are only two days of possible high rainfall forecast for the rest of October in Orange.