Rain boosts sorghum prospects, more needed for big plant

Emma Alsop, November 20, 2023

A number of locations around Moree have had 50mm or more in the past 24 hours. Photo: Oscar Pearse, Pallamallawa

DECENT rainfall forecasts for this week have boosted sorghum prospects in New South Wales and southern Queensland, with minimal planting to date.

Parts of the Darling Downs received totals of 10-20mm overnight, with some communities further west seeing falls of more than 100mm.

Growing regions in NSW fared better, with reported rainfall of about 50mm in Moree and Mungindi over the past 24 hours.

More substantial rainfall is expected over the coming week, and possibly into next week, further improving the outlook for sorghum planting.

B&W Moree agronomist Brad Donald said this weather system has significantly increased the interest in sorghum.

“I think the planned hectares will go in now,” Mr Donald said.

“Everyone is full of optimism this morning and geared up to make a start once everything dries out.”

Mr Donald said very little sorghum had been planted this season in the Moree region to date.

“We haven’t really sold any sorghum; it’s been too dry everywhere.

“Guys tried and might have done 10-20 hectares and pulled up because it was too marginal.”

AMPS Gunnedah agronomist Rod Campbell said this weather system had turned around this season’s sorghum crop projections for most of the NSW growing regions.

“There will be a lot of interest in sorghum now,” Mr Campbell said.

He said the rain had been “a bit spasmodic”, with some Liverpool Plains locations getting 10-30mm.

“Some will be marginal while others will be good to plant on.

“They are talking about more rain this week, so if that follows through, there will be a fair bit of sorghum go in.”

Mr Campbell said little sorghum was planted before this system, except for parts south of Gunnedah which received isolated showers.

He said growers will plant through December and even into January if the rewards outweigh the risks of harvesting into winter.

Southern Qld brightens

Like NSW, southern Queensland growers planted very little sorghum in the ideal window from mid-September into October.

AgForce Grains president and Warra grower Brendan Taylor said a few growers were able to plant in September and last week; however, the dry conditions and hot temperatures hindered most people.

He said isolated pockets received decent falls earlier this month and chose to plant, but daytime temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or more quickly dried out the soil.

“If we can get 50mm this week it would be ideal, and I imagine it would stimulate a very good planting for the December window.

“December is later than we would typically like to plant, but it’s still good.”

Nutrien Ag Solutions Dalby agronomist Angus Dalgliesh said some growers were disappointed with the current rainfall totals reported across the Downs.

“We are getting rain, but it is just not as widespread as we thought it might be,” Mr Dalgliesh said.

“At this stage the phone is not running hot with growers wanting to get their sorghum seed.”

He said there was currently a lot of apprehension around planting dryland summer crops.

“We were surprised with the growers that got 50mm two weeks ago; a lot of them didn’t plant.

“Although there was moisture there, it wasn’t consistent enough.”

He said 50-100mm of rain would see most growers change their mindset.

“If we get that rain now, then we would see a fairly substantial sorghum area go in.

“We will wait and see what the next few days bring and what totals we get.”

Dry limits CQ interest

North of the Downs, most Central Qld growers will miss the rainfall predicted for the coming week.

These growers have until January-February to decide whether to plant sorghum this season.

Emerald-based Iker Ag senior agronomist Belinda Chase said currently there was very little interest in sorghum.

“At the moment, no one is interested,” Ms Chase said.

“Perhaps the Clermont guys, if they get a bit more rain…would be wet enough to plant, but everywhere else is too dry.”

She said conditions would need to substantially improve into 2024 for sorghum to take off in CQ.

“If we can get enough rain to plant in a couple of months, there will be a fair bit of interest in sorghum.

“A lot of people would need another three or four inches before they would be anywhere close to planting.”

ABARES September Crop Report forecast a 1.5-million-tonne crop to be grown over this summer, down 39 percent on the crop harvested earlier this year.

Area planted to sorghum is also set to drop by 22pc year on year to 527,000ha, but remain 1pc above the 10-year average to 2022-23.

ABARES is more bullish than USDA, which predicted sorghum production to fall to 1.3Mt in its Australia: Grain and Feed Update released on November 2.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Grain Central's news headlines emailed to you -