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AOF forecasts new-crop canola area at 3.2Mha

Grain Central, June 3, 2024

A crop of Captain canola growing at Mandurama on the slopes of Central West NSW in mid-April. Photo: AGF Seeds

THE AUSTRALIAN Oilseeds Federation has released its initial area estimate for the 2024-25 canola crop now in the ground at 3.2 million hectares (Mha), down from 3.6Mha planted in 2023-24.

While the AOF has decided not to officially estimate yields in this report, it said that average yields, discounted for drier conditions, put the national crop at very roughly 5 million tonnes (Mt), down from 5.8Mt harvested last season.

“The delay in the autumn break has taken its toll on canola forecasts for this season as some dry-sown crops are only now receiving moisture while in some areas, sown canola has been re-sown to cereals,” the AOF report stated.

“Early planted, long-season varieties had the opportunity to benefit from stored moisture, but elsewhere, with the exception of NSW, canola crops have been in need of moisture replenishment, which has only occurred at the end of May.

“April-May rainfall in the key growing areas of Vic, SA and WA was either belowor well below average,
while temperatures in WA were a few degrees above the mean average, which served to further reduce
available moisture.

The BOM is forecasting a dry to very dry June, with the chance of exceeding median temperatures greater than 80 percent across nearly all canola growing regions.

“This is likely to impact establishment of any crops that germinated on the May rainfall while limiting the vegetative stage of earlier planted and better established crops.”

AOF said canola pricing at the time of pre-planting was sub $700/tonne which, combined with the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast for drier conditions, led many growers to temper their canola planting area in favour of lentils, where possible, and/or cereals.

CANOLA 2023-24 harvested area 2023-24 tonnes 2024-25 sown area
NSW 886,000 1,340,000 820,000
Vic 601,000 1,410,000 598,000
SA 284,000 468,000 225,000
WA 1,845,000 2,584,000 1,562,000
TOTAL 3,596,000 5,802,000 3,204,000

Table 1: Collated industry estimates from GIWA for WA, NSW DPI for NSW, and DEDJTR for Vic. Source: AOF

An official estimate of each state’s new-crop canola production will be issued in AOF’s next report.

Following is the peak body’s round-up of conditions by state:

New South Wales

NSW had a very strong start to the season with long-season varieties planted in March benefiting from the February rain, while the spring varieties benefited from the heavy rain in early April.

Warm soil temperatures and favourable seedbed moisture favoured rapid germination, and four to five days after sowing.

By the end of April, nearly all NSW canola had been sown, and northern and central NSW continued to progress well during May, benefiting from a near-full soil-moisture profile.

In southern NSW, crops in the south-west that missed the April rain have struggled to maintain good establishment growth.

The late May front delivered much-needed rain of around 25mm to this region to sustain the crops until the next front passes through.

“The only concern in NSW is the rapid crop growth in the central to northern regions, producing large biomass increasing the risk of fungal disease, and moisture loss (through) increasing transpiration.

Victoria

Most Vic regions did not have the sub-soil moisture stores that NSW did, and relied on the brief rain in early April to provide sowing moisture.

Western districts had below-average rainfall, while the Wimmera scraped through with average rainfall into fairly dry soil.

“This continued through May, with the autumn break effectively only occurring in the last few days of May, which will aid what in many areas has been patchy germination.”

Most models are predicting neutral rainfall conditions for Victoria in the near term, with most predicting warmer conditions.

“This will hamper canola crops that did not get a good start, as the warmer conditions are likely to deplete already tight stored soil moisture through biomass production and transpiration.

“Mouse presence is reported to be moderate to high.”

South Australia

South Australia held the unenviable position of breaking low-rainfall records during April and May in a number of areas, with traditional strong areas for canola such as the South East and Eyre Peninsula recording well below-average rainfall, and in some cases, lowest on record.

“Some growers have moved to double crop lentils with canola to mitigate their risk.”

As a result, area in SA is expected to come back by around 20pc this season to 250,000ha, broadly in line with the five-year average.

Western Australia

On the back of a very hot and dry summer, low soil-moisture levels combined with continuing dry, above average temperatures and seasonal forecast has resulted in reduction in the dry sown canola area.

More recently, there are reports of growers abandoning their canola crop and re-sowing with wheat.

In Geraldton zone, despite some isolated reasonable falls, even dry-sown area has come back off prior
years.

“Kwinana South and the Midlands is extremely dry, with the north-east of the zone holding more promise, after March storms delivered some moisture for seeding.

“Albany and Esperance zones are both very dry, with canola area reduction due to risk aversion.

“Overall, WA canola area could be back as much as 15pc to more typical areas. (1500-1600 Ha).

Source: Australian Oilseeds Federation

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