Cropping

Canola advances as nationwide plant ramps up

Liz Wells, April 27, 2022

Some growers have finished sowing canola and are now moving on to cereals. Photo: Dave Newbigging, Peak Hill, NSW

SEEDING of Australia’s 2022-23 winter crop is well under way following widespread rain across most growing regions.

The exception is South Australia, where most districts in the eastern part of the state are waiting on opening rains to get started in earnest on their planting of cash crops.

Conditions are also patchy in Central Queensland (CQ).

The planting window for winter crops including wheat, barley, canola, oats and pulses has only just opened, and many growers other than those in dry parts of SA have passed the halfway mark in their canola-planting programs.

While a small portion of canola seed has had to be replanted, largely after dry sowing followed by insufficient rain to get seedlings established, crops are generally off to a strong and early start.

Following is a round-up of conditions by state:

Queensland

Patchy rain in Central Queensland (CQ), and general rain in southern Queensland is allowing growers to make a start on their winter cereal plantings.

In CQ, most growers with irrigation are picking cotton at the same time as they are getting a start on planting wheat, with chickpeas to follow.

In the week to 9am today, CQ registrations include Clermont with 71 millimetres, and Emerald and Springsure both on 49mm, but some centres including Capella have missed this most recent rain.

AgForce grains president and Downs grower Brendan Taylor, Warra, said he expected to be planting barley by the end of the week, and long-season wheat varieties like Sunmax were already being sown.

“The school of thought is you should get it in while you can, because it might keep raining.”

“We’ve got overfull profiles everywhere but CQ, and they’ve just had a bit of rain, which is great.

“The potential for a significant winter crop is certainly there.”

While the price of chickpeas is uninspiring, they have an unrivalled place in Queensland wheat rotations.

Growers will decide if and when to plant chickpeas from later next month.

Over what area is anyone’s guess.

“Chickpeas are a bit of a Nigel No-friends at the moment.”

Mr Taylor said some growers will be double-cropping into sorghum stubble, with the sorghum harvest still under way following rain delays.

“Given the cost of inputs at the moment, and the bullish feel of the market, your cheapest fallow option might be wheat and barley.

“At the moment, we’re doing almost monthly fallow sprays with sometimes double-knocks at more than $50 a hectare.”

Mr Taylor said high nitrogen prices will deter some growers from feeding up wheat crops enough to hit Prime Hard protein targets, and some will be opting for barley.

Barley and lower-protein wheat are popular with Queensland’s feedlots, poultry farms and piggeries, and both can be grown with a modest fertiliser expenditure.

“Most people will be watching their nitrogen budgets.”

New South Wales

Planting is in full swing across NSW, with dual-purpose and grazing canola and cereal crops already well established in most tablelands and inner slopes district.

Canola seeding is now the focus on the plains and outer slopes.

“The dual-purpose stuff is in and up, and the early crops are getting grazed,” Nutrien Forbes-based agronomist Jim Cronin said.

“We’re probably halfway through the canola plant; some of the big guys are finished, and others would be 70 per cent through.”

“There’s a lot of canola going in, and the economics are better for canola than wheat.”

Mr Cronin said canola appears to have cribbed some area from pulses and barley, with bids on canola delivered Nov-Dec local depot at a compelling $1020 per tonne.

Showers have slowed planting activity as intentions start to switch to cereals, and rain is germinating weeds which need to be controlled amid the sowing regime.

“We’re just hitting that ideal grain wheat window.”

Victoria

In the Mallee region of north-west Victoria, AGRIvision general manager Ed Nixon said ideally timed rain in the past week or so has kicked along early planted grazing crops, germinated dry-sown crops, and allowed growers to advance planting with confidence.

“Most people got 40-75mm…which was excellent, and they’ll be sowing into good moisture.”

Mr Nixon said the Mallee was largely dry prior to that, and with only patchy summer storms, winter weeds will be germinating now at the same time as crops, or in fallow ahead of planting.

He said planting of canola and vetch was expected to take place ahead of cereals and lentils, and growers had already covered their fertiliser requirements for planting.

If the growing season is kind, crops will require additional top-dressing with fertiliser to achieve yield potential.

In the Wimmera, Nutrien agronomist Brad Jackson said many growers in the region were enjoying one of the best starts on record.

“Cropping conditions are probably as good as you could experience,” Mr Jackson said.

“A lot of guys are getting to the end of their canola planting now, and starting to sow a few faba beans, and the odd bit of cereal.”

Wheat and barley planting will hit full pace next month, and Mr Jackson said growers were starting to get on top of ryegrass and other weeds now, but post-emergent herbicide applications will be required.

Mr Jackson said he estimated growers in his district centred on Rupanyup have planted roughly one quarter of their winter-crop area.

South Australia

Following very heavy rain in January, planting is well under way on much of the Eyre Peninsula (EP), but the eastern part of the state including the Lower North, Mid North and South East, as well as the Murray-Mallee, are still waiting for an opening rain.

At Clare in the Mid North, Ground Up Agronomy principal Michelle Bammann said her home district has had 20-60mm for the year to date and conditions are dry.

“There’s a bit of feed going in — some hay plus vetch and oats, so it’s very similar to last year.”

While the upper reaches of the Upper North and more arid grazing districts are very wet and in flood in some places, rain over the past week in the cropping zones has been patchy, with some in the Murray-Mallee getting more than 20mm, and others receiving single-digit falls.

Ms Bammann said parts of the EP that flooded earlier this year were off to a strong start.

“They have amazing soil moisture, and they’ve got some of their crops up and away.”

She said the expense of nitrogen was making faba beans an attractive option, and its area looks like it will increase this year.

“Faba beans are up, and those high nitrogen prices are feeding bean growth.”

The crop does not demand applied nitrogen, and has a much better resistance to frost than field peas.

Faba beans also offer more herbicide options for ryegrass control, and the market for them has been supported by export and domestic demand.

Ms Bammann said mixed farmers were improving pastures but not expanding sheep numbers, largely because of the shortage of labour available to SA producers.

She said growers will dry-sow wheat and barley ahead of the break, with 10-15mm forecast for coming days.

Western Australia

After a drier-than-normal summer, Beaumont grower and Grain Industry Association of WA chair Lyndon Mickel said general rain earlier this month has allowed growers to make a good start on planting.

“Most people have been getting stuck into their canola programs, and we’ve had some good rain in the majority of growing regions,” Mr Mickel said.

Most of WA’s cropping country has had 5-20mm of rain in the past week, with some out-of-the-box registrations at sites like Badgingarra on 51mm, Eneabba on 33mm, and Moora on 55mm.

“We’ve got a system going through in the next couple of days, and most people would be happy with the way it’s looking.

“Hopefully predictions for a wetter season come true.”

Mr Mickel said canola as well as longer-season legumes like faba beans and lupins have been planted to date, and growers were getting ready to move on to cereals in paddocks which have been sprayed to kill recently germinated weeds.

“Coming off the rain of three weeks ago, cereals will get a decent double knock.”

Farmanco agronomist Peter Borstel services mostly the southern part of the Geraldton zone, and said canola was around 40pc planted, and most lupins are in.

“Now they’ll be thinking about barley, and on the coast they’ll start planting cereals soon.”

While the canola price is attractive, GM varieties hold additional appeal in their resistance to a broader range of herbicides.

“Canola will be grown for that agronomic weed control too.”

Mr Borstel said soil-moisture levels varied, with some farms very wet, and some sandplain country in need of more rain.

“They’ll be looking for more rain on sandplains, and all the canola will go in then.”

 

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