This week Grain Central takes a look at the sowing intentions of growers across Australia for the forthcoming winter crop. Today, NSW is in the spotlight. Coverage of what growers are thinking in other States will follow later in the week.
NSW grain growers are holding off locking in their winter cropping plans, waiting to see what the ‘autumn break’ will bring before deciding whether to go all out with potentially high-returning alternative crops or opt for a conservative strategy based on traditional cereals.
GRDC northern panel chair and farmer/consultant in the West Wyalong and Barmedman areas, John Minogue, said growers were divided into “two camps” in the lead up to winter cropping.
“Those who believe the season will be drier than average will go back into cereals as the safer option, but those who follow the market and pricing are going to be chasing higher dollars with canola and pulses,” he said.
“With pulses, those who can will try lentils. I think people will try chickpeas, but they have mixed success in our area. I’d say there will be more lupins where they can grow them.
“But canola will be the one that will be the major player.”
Mr Minogue said the timing and extent of autumn break rains would be the driver behind farmers’ planting decisions.
“If we get an early break, some of the higher value crops will definitely go in. As it gets later, more people will jump into the conservative pool which will give us more cereals,” he said.
Soil moisture profiles are severely depleted in many parts of the NSW cropping zone, particularly in the north where last season’s bumper crop and a severe, hot, dry summer have sapped soil profiles.
Moisture levels are reasonable in some of the southern regions of the state, left over from the extremely wet season last year, and in the Central West in the West Wyalong/Forbes/Caragabal/Quandialla/Young areas where September flooding caused crop losses last season.
“It will more than likely depend on when the opening rains come as to what they plant there. They will sow the higher value crops like canola and pulses where they can. They are sitting back with profile hoping they can recoup some of their losses from last year,” Mr Minogue said.
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In the north of the state where storms are bringing patchy falls to some areas this week, Walgett agricultural consultant, Greg Rummery, said the widespread lack of subsoil moisture was overshadowing winter sowing intentions.
“We don’t have any residual moisture, except in some of the legume country from last year that has some deep moisture. It is 150 millimetres of rain away from linking up with that,” he said.
“The intention this year will be to have a big lot of chickpeas, but the limitation is that the cereal stubble (where most of the chickpeas would be planted) is the driest country of the lot. The stubble country could handle 200-250 millimetres of rain over a month.
“We have some time yet. We just have to start to hope our luck turns around.”
Mr Rummery said in addition to chickpeas, farmers would plant a significant area of wheat with the aim of hitting the more lucrative, higher protein grades.
“The wheat price isn’t very good, but we will try to grow wheat where we think there is a fair chance of getting protein. We’ll manage it for protein outcomes. Protein wheat is the bright spot amongst all the gloom on the wheat front,” he said.
Mr Rummery said there had been “a few speculators” who grew canola last year with good results and would likely revisit the oilseed again this year.
“There won’t be big areas of canola unless, say, between now and mid-April we got 150-200mm of rain. That would get people thinking about replacing some of the wheat area with canola,” he said.
See also: Grain Central story on Queensland sowing intentions: http://www.graincentral.com/cropping/winter-sowing-intentions-chickpeas-top-the-menu-for-queensland/