Cropping

Victorian growers buoyed by big harvest yields

Liz Wells, January 19, 2017

PULSE and canola crops have been the star performers in a bumper winter crop harvest across Victoria as growers round off a harvest characterised by high yields across all crops, high grain quality, high returns for pulses and oilseeds – but low cereal prices.

GrainCorp's Quambatook site was one of 11 receival centres in Victoria to take in record, or near record, tonnages this season..

GrainCorp’s Quambatook site was one of 11 receival centres in Victoria to take in record, or near record, tonnages this season..

As harvest wraps up with only crops in the Western District yet to be stripped, GrainCorp has taken in 3.74 million tonnes of winter crops in Victoria so far this season. Eleven GrainCorp receival sites in Victoria have taken in record, or near record, tonnages.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president and grain grower at Quambatook in the southern Mallee, Brett Hosking, said most growers across the state had finished the season with high yields and good quality grain.

“There have been exceptions to that in areas that experienced flooding; to the north of Horsham where they experienced severe frost damage and are seeing low test weight grain because of that; and there was an extremely savage hail storm that went through a strip south of Mildura at the beginning of harvest. But overall the numbers show it was a successful harvest yield-wise,” he said.

“Price is the downside of the season. It has turned what could have been a really valuable and successful season for most growers into an average year return-wise.”

Mr Hosking said while wheat and barley crops had produced big yields, prices for cereals had been “very ordinary”.

Wheat and barley crops have produced big yields, but prices are low.

Wheat and barley crops have produced big yields, but prices are low.

“That has probably produced an average result for most growers even though they produced a lot more tonnes than they normally would,” he said.

GrainProducers Australia chairman and Wimmera farmer, Andrew Weidemann, said canola crops had been the highlight for many farmers with high yields and oil contents above 45 per cent, even some over 50pc.

It had also been an exceptional year for pulses such as lentils and chickpeas which had turned off exceptional yields at very attractive prices.

“Most farmers have sold most of their chickpeas and lentils. There are a lot of people cleaning their lentils at the moment to meet the specifications,” he said.

“It has been the biggest lentil crop we have seen in the Wimmera since we started growing them back in 1996. It is not uncommon to have heard of lentils yielding between four and five tonnes/hectare. That will make up for the depressed prices of both wheat and barley.”

Mr Weidemann said the cool finish that delayed crop maturity and contributed to the exceptional yields had also caused harvest across the state’s farming zones to be condensed into virtually the same harvesting window, with many regions still harvesting in January.

“It has been one of those seasons where the maturity of the crop has almost coincided across the whole state, being such a cool finish,” he said.

“That is quite irregular. Normally you would find the north of the state would be finished by middle to late November, in the central Victoria/Wimmera it would normally be around Christmas and the Western District would be finishing now. At the end of this week most of the Western District will be harvested.

“Yields have been quite exceptional in all crops where there hasn’t been impact from frosts. There were quite a lot of frosts, particularly through the Wimmera. Most paddocks of wheat had some level of frosting in them, even though they yielded quite well.”

Mr Hosking said it was hard to estimate what proportion of grain had stayed on-farm and what the quality of that grain was.

“Sometimes the grain that stays on-farm is not of deliverable quality. But we estimate somewhere around 30 per cent of the harvest would still be on-farm,” he said.

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