Challenging finish to season 2021 summer crop

Neil Lyon and Liz Wells, May 21, 2021

SUMMER crop harvest across the northern farming zone is producing a mixed bag of outcomes ranging from crops that have yielded above expectations to others downgraded by mice damage, frost and untimely rains.

On Queensland’s Darling Downs, Dalby Rural Supplies agronomist Andrew Johnston said growers were now busy planting winter crop and harvesting summer crops at the same time.

“They’re trying to negotiate sorghum ergot and mungbeans that were sprayed out before this last rain,” he said.

Mr Johnston said some mungbeans were now up to one month beyond their ideal harvest time, and while earlier rain added yield to many previously struggling crops, they had “really dragged on” for some growers.

Many sorghum crops have been affected to some degree by sprouting, excessive moisture, ergot or mouse droppings.

“Some of these late crops have a reasonable amount of ergot, but the rain has managed to wash a percentage of that off,” he said.

Queensland AgForce grains president Brendan Taylor said the bulk of the Downs’ summer crop was yet to be harvested.

“We’re into May, we’ve got short days, and the easterly influence on our weather bringing rain, but getting westerly winds and frost helps to dry things out,” he said.

“Grain drying is looking like it’s on the cards for a lot of sorghum.”

Brendan Taylor

Mr Taylor said some parts of the Darling Downs had had hail – very unusual outside summer – in the past month.

“The bulk of the sorghum crop on the Downs is still to come off and we’ve had a couple of savage hailstorms. They did a lot of damage between Warra and Jandowae, and some guys have lost 1-1.5 tonnes/hectare which could be 30-40 per cent of the yield.”

On the Liverpool Plains in north west NSW, agronomist Pete McKenzie said the summer crop had been very successful on the whole, despite the challenges of mice damage, particularly with sorghum.

“If we can string another winter crop on the back of that we won’t be fully recovered from the drought, but it will go a long way to getting people back on track and generate some cash flow,” he said.

Mr McKenzie said most of the sorghum had been harvested.

“It was very challenging in places keeping mice out of the crop. What it has meant is it has been difficult for people delivering to the port. They are having to grade their sorghum to get it to be deliverable to port,” he said.

“A lot of contracts were forward delivered. That’s where the good money was, but it is causing some grief at the moment because they are taking a 40-litre bucket sample and if they find one mouse dropping in it they reject the load.”

Mr McKenzie said cotton picking was underway and early signs were that some crops had been impacted by frosts.

“We had some severe frosts at the end of the cotton crop which particularly affected the irrigated crops. The dryland cotton is coming off really well,” he said.

“Apparently turnouts are pretty good, but we are just waiting to see what quality results we get out of cotton.”

Mr McKenzie said the small planting of mungbeans on the Liverpool Plains had produced mixed results.

“Prospects have been up and down, mainly based on whether they finished before they got frosted in mid-April. A lot didn’t, so their prospects weren’t good. But there were some really good crops around” he said.


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