SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S harvest – now in its dying days – is estimated to produce 6.25 million tonnes (Mt) of grain, up from 5.8Mt in the previous harvest, but well below the 10-year average of 8Mt, according to Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA).
In its November Crop and Pasture Report released 19 December, the state government body has estimated total crop area at 3.85 million hectares, up 10 per cent from the area planted in 2018.
“Crop yields in many areas of the state have decreased, with the drier areas on the Far West, Eyre Peninsula and northern Murray Mallee heavily impacted,” PIRSA senior industry adviser Dave Lewis said.
Drought has impacted 70pc of SA, and produced mixed results for cropping regions compounded by highly variable rainfall.
“Coupled with the dry conditions, frosts in early and late September caused significant crop damage to isolated areas in most districts with the worst-affected areas cut for hay.”
Average to above-average production was expected in areas including the Lower Eyre Peninsula, parts of Western Eyre Peninsula, Southern Yorke Peninsula, Upper South East, Lower South East and Kangaroo Island.
Harvest started in late September in the Upper North, with several other districts starting in early to mid-October, and the state’s harvest started at least two weeks earlier than usual due to seasonal conditions hastening the maturity of most crops.
Table 1: PIRSA estimates for tonnage from major crops.
Table 2: PIRSA estimates for area of major crops.
Cost of frost
Widespread frosts in early and late September caused significant crop damage to isolated areas in most districts,with the worst affected areas cut for hay. In some districts there was insufficient bulk to make hay and these crops have been left to harvest what grain remained.
Frost damage has caused significant losses to grain production, although the area of frosted crop across the state was less than in 2018.
Faba bean crops were affected by hot windy conditions in September and early October.
Bean yields on Lower Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and the South East will be average to above average but will be well below average in all other districts.
Lentil yields in most districts are below average due to frost damage, warm dry conditions which halted crop development, and strong hot winds causing pod losses in ripe crops.
Frost damage and increased demand for hay has resulted in a greater area than normal being cut for hay.However, hay yields in most districts have been below average. Hay quality has generally been good, although there are reports of some poorer quality in stem frosted cereals.
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