Cropping

SA crops knocked by wild weather

Henry Wells, September 30, 2016

TWO days of severe storms that have pummelled crops in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula and Upper and Mid North, will affect the quality and quantity of cereals shipped from South Australia’s two biggest grain export terminals, Port Lincoln and Port Adelaide.

While the weather over the next few days will determine the impact of South Australia’s most severe storm event in 50 years, there is no doubting malting barley and high-protein milling wheat will be affected.

Grain Producers SA chief executive officer, Darren Arney, said it was too early to tell the extent of the impact the wild weather had had on the state’s crops, particularly in the hardest hit areas of the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula where communications were still down in some regions.

“Because of the cool weather we have had, the crops are a couple of weeks behind where they were last year. We are still a fair way from harvest. There has been some hail damage and crop lodging,” he said.

“There will be quite a bit of monitoring for disease in pulse crops and to see how quickly the paddocks will dry out. There are forecasts for more rain for Sunday and Monday.”

Mr Arney said while the storms had caused damage in the central areas, conditions weren’t as severe in other parts of the state, such as the Eyre Peninsula, the Mallee and South East, where the rain was beneficial.

Australian Grain Growers Co-operative chairman and Eyre Peninsula grower, Andrew Polkinghorne, said the weather conditions there had not been as severe as in the Mid North.

“There has been a lot of wind. A few bean crops have been blown over but the wheat is still standing,” he said.

“It is a plus for us in terms of soil moisture. The good will outweigh the bad.”

In its most recent Australian Crop Report published September 13, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences forecast the South Australian wheat crop at 5 million tonnes over 2.1 million hectares, and the barley crop at 1.85 million tonnes over 780,000ha.

That assumes an average yield for wheat of 2.38t/ha, and 2.37t/ha for barley.

The South Australian Government’s Primary Industries & Regions SA (PIRSA) on September 6 pegged its estimates slightly higher at 5.30mt from 2.24m ha for wheat, and 2.17mt of barley from 804,800ha.

South Australia’s winter-crop harvest usually starts in the Eyre Peninsula and Upper and Mid North in early to mid-October, and gets into full swing in all areas by early November.

While most of the state’s soils are sandy and drain quickly, the extent of lodging and waterlogging in crops which were on target to deliver above-average yields will present harvest difficulties.

Fungal diseases, as well as significant grain losses through shattering and water damage, are a real threat, particularly for high-quality crops like malting barley and durum.

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