Wednesday, 25 June 2008

After the rains, Australian farmers dare to hope

NARRABRI, Australia: Powerful lights eerily illuminate pitch-black paddocks as farmers sow newly rain-blessed soil with one of Australia's biggest wheat crops.
Rigs as big as houses sow seeds in one of the most fertile parts of Australia's eastern grain belts. Farmers are praying they will beat a seven-year drought to fill silos with grain in a year of high prices.
"It's a nervous optimism," said one farmer Phil Christie near Narrabri, about 500 kilometers, or 300 miles, northwest of Sydney.
Eastern Australia has been hit hardest by the country's worst drought in 100 years, but good rain has fallen recently to allow long-delayed planting to begin. Now farmers are working round the clock to plant, with satellites steering tractors night and day.
"We really need this crop. We've had no crop for two or three years. If this one fails it will take a lot of people down," Christie said. "Everyone's borrowed to the hilt to put this crop in."

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