GOOD rainfall for much of the grainbelt over the last week have kept crops on track for another near record year for Western Australia, according to the Grain Industry of Western Australia’s (GIWA) September Crop Report released today.
Total grain production for the state will almost certainly exceed 20 million tonnes and potentially nudge last year’s total of just under 24Mt.
Frost and possibly a blast of heat are the only obstacles on the horizon.
Crop growth has slowed down in the last month from the cold temperatures, and most are now at about normal growth stages for the time of sowing, rather than a week or two more advanced than has been the case for most of the year.
For many regions, crop development timing will now coincide with the frost risk period through September and early October.
This risk will be lessened if the front predicted to arrive early next week eventuates and gives crops another few days of reprieve.
Crops have also put on more bulk following the rainfall in August and this extra top may push crops into a greater risk of heat shock from hot winds during grain fill.
Even though the top end potential across the state for most regions is not as good as last year, the current total grain production potential is on par with 2021 due to less areas being waterlogged and more stored subsoil moisture across the state available to finish crops.
The big kicker is the large areas of the eastern grainbelt where there are no poor pockets of low rainfall as there was last year.
The inevitable impact from frost and heat will largely determine the final outcome.
Lower nitrogen levels
Cereal crops are generally underdone for nitrogen, and this will impact on grain yields and protein levels, with most growers expecting a higher percentage than normal of their grain being delivered to the lower grades at harvest.
The high grain yields and corresponding high nitrogen extraction by crops in 2021, have been followed by high nitrogen prices in and a bearish outlook for rainfall early in this growing season which combined to reduce nitrogen use this year.
This has potentially resulted in a lot of grain left in the paddock as a consequence of being under fertilised.
It has been a costly year to grow grain and, whilst the expected high tonnage will offset the lower grain prices on offer leading into harvest, growers are already planning for a reduced area planted next year, when they will be more exposed to the projected high input costs.
Highlights from the season to date include: an incredible recovery from the very dry start, particularly in the northern regions of the state; the general increase in bulk of all crops once the rain got going in the second half of July; the podding up in the lupin crops; and the excellent management of canola crops in the low rainfall regions where many had not grown the crop for up to 10 years.
Whilst the season has gone growers way in the last seven weeks, the overall management has had a very positive impact on the potential of the crop.
To read the full GIWA September Crop report, including zone-specific information click here.