THE year is set up, there's yield potential there, grain prices are good – but moisture reserves are near exhausted for croppers across Australia's south-east, who are very much at the crossroads leading into the critical first fortnight of October.
The Mallee region is the most vulnerable to hot and dry conditions, but it is widely variable in terms of crop condition.
Department of Primary Industries Swan Hill agronomist Rob Sonogan said the eastern and southern Mallee was faring much better than the Millewa and Mallee Track regions due to an isolated band of rain last week.
"There was a good rain that pretty much followed the river from Robinvale down to Quambatook, with the heaviest falls between Swan Hill and Kerang," he said.
"Some areas received over 25 millimetres around Goschen (west of Lake Boga), and there were widespread falls of 15-25mm there."
The falls eased off to the north and west, with the central Mallee receiving 5-10mm and the rest of the region less than 5mm.
Mr Sonogan said areas that had recorded that rain were on track for a near-average year.
"It's a combination of timely rain and stored moisture from good late summer rainfall," he said.
Prospects fall away markedly towards Ouyen and the Millewa, where expectations are of yields around half of the average.
Mr Sonogan said it was already too late in some parts to boost yield much.
In the Northern Country, a combination of stored moisture, a good emergence and reasonable rainfall thus far has the season well set up.
Corop farmer Sean Kennedy said he was hoping for a good season, with crops well tillered and still with reserves of moisture.
"We'll want another good rain but at the moment it looks good," he said.
Across the NSW border, in the southern Riverina, Corowa farmer Ian Trevethan said a spring rain would lock in the potential.
"We're hopeful of a good year, especially with prices looking good," he said.
The Wimmera region, which was dry to start with, is now very much looking for rain, while in the Western District things generally look good.
The seven-day forecast offers few clues in terms of either consolidating or downgrading crop prospects.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast rainfall over the next week of 10-15mm throughout the Western District and North East, about 10mm in the Wimmera and 5-10mm in the Mallee.
This will not be enough to lock in yield but is sufficient to keep crops going until the next front arrives.
Crucially, apart from the warm to hot conditions today, the bureau does not predict high temperatures over the next week, which will help crop development.