GIWA releases initial forecast for WA crop area of 8.6Mha

Grain Central, April 19, 2024

Many growers in WA have made a start on dry sowing ahead of the autumn break. Photo: Paul Carmody

WINTER crop now being planted in Western Australia is forecast to cover 8,595,000ha, according to the Grain Industry Association of WA.

This figure compares with 8,290,000ha seen in May 2023 at the start of the 2023-24 crop, with total production from the low-rainfall growing season estimated at 14.53 million tonnes.

Released today in its first monthly crop report for the 2024-25 season, the report said most growers have either started planting or will do so in coming days.

“With no rain on the horizon, it looks like at least a couple more weeks of dry sowing is ahead,” report author Michael Lamond said.

“This is not unusual for Western Australia and is not necessarily a precursor to a poor year, although the extremely dry soil profiles are a concern and have put a dampener on the start to the 2024 growing season.”

Apart from some canola and oats in the Hyden area sown into moisture, and isolated pockets of canola further north, Mr Lamond said any other crops already in the ground have been dry sown.

“The dry hot summer is lingering, and the reprieve in March with storms across areas of the eastern grain belt raised hopes for a change in weather patterns.

“However, with current climate outlooks forecasting more of the same for the time being, these hopes have evaporated.

“Whilst things can change quickly at this time of the year, growers are taking a cautious approach with cropping plans.”

Mr Lamond said dry sowing of canola, lupins and vetch is under way in many regions of the state, with growers planning to swap to dry-sowing cereals when they reach around 50 percent or less of their planned canola hectares sown.

“This is a subtle change from recent dry-sowing strategies, where a larger percentage of the planned canola crop would be sown dry before switching to cereals.

“With virtually no sub-soil moisture across the grain belt, except for the central eastern fringes, growers are holding back on committing larger areas of canola due to the risk associated with a late break to the season.”

In the report, Mr Lamond said cereal area was expected to increase from 2023 due to a reduction in sheep numbers and percentage of ewes mated.

“The anticipated pasture-to-crop swap of around 10 percent is likely to be less now, as growers are still holding stock that was earmarked to be turned off.”

He said the swap from pasture to crop will be offset largely by a decrease in total crop area if the dry conditions continue into May.

Current high-decile lupin, oat price

An increase in both lupin and oat area from 2023 is expected, due to the rundown in stocks and current higher prices on offer.

“The reduced area of plantings in 2023 and increased domestic demand for these grains as of livestock feed has pushed prices up to decile eight to nine levels for both crops.

“It remains to be seen if these higher prices hold through to harvest.”

Cautious approach

Mr Lamond said wheat and barley areas could change significantly across the regions as the break to the season lingers, and it was too early to be firm on the crop area split of the two.

“There could also be a wide swing in variance with crop area, as growers in the northern and eastern regions of the state may opt for fallow over crop as the break to the season pushes back.

“Whilst long-term weather forecasts are not particularly reliable this time of the year, there is nothing positive on the horizon and this is playing on growers’ minds with most taking a cautious approach to the season ahead.”

Source: GIWA

Further detail on crop conditions in individual WA port zones can be found as part of the full report on the GIWA website. 


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