THE MAJORITY of growers across Western Australian have finished harvesting well before Christmas, the Grain Industry Association of WA said in its December GIWA Crop Report out today.
For most, this is the earliest finish to harvest for a very long time.
Actual grain yields for all crops have fallen away as harvest has progressed to the southern regions of the state in the past month, and the harvest estimate of 14.279 million tonnes (Mt), is down from 14.509Mt seen last month.
“Production may not reach the 14.5Mt for all grains across WA mentioned in last month’s report as the tight spring and frost has taken more of the top off production in the southern regions than was estimated prior to harvest,” report author Michael Lamond said.
The impact of frost in particular has been greater than expected.
“While actual grain yields have been well below recent averages for most growers, grain quality has been well above what was expected prior to and at the start of harvest.”
The report said a much higher proportion of loads have made the premium grades than was expected.
“To date, around 80 percent of wheat deliveries have made the premium grades with the remainder of deliveries falling out of the higher-quality grades due to high screenings.”
“Around 75pc of wheat deliveries have made Hard grades this year of some sort, while in 2022 the majority of the wheat production was at the lower end of the protein scale, with virtually none achieving the Hard grades.
“The stark difference in the growing season between 2022 and 2023 could not have been more dramatic, with 40pc less grain produced in 2023 than 2022.”
The high proportion of higher-protein wheat produced in 2023 was due mainly to the season; in previous low-production years, there has never been such a high proportion of wheat reaching these higher-protein levels.
“Growers generally applied more fertiliser early in the season to compensate for the previous two big production years, but then pulled back on planned in-season applications as it became obvious the season was cutting out.
“The good levels of fertiliser applied up front, then little in the growing season obviously contributed to adequate crop health without pushing top growth to a point where the plants crashed in the spring.
While there was plenty of grain delivered with high screenings, the switch in management during the season resulted in a lot less pinched grain than was expected.
The percentage of barley making malting grades has been lower than in recent years, with most failing to achieve malting due to an unacceptably high level of pinched grain.
“The majority of the premium malting barley was produced in the traditional malt belt of the Midlands region that, for the most part, had a very low rainfall year.
Canola grain production in 2023 was only 20pc lower than 2022 on an area down by 14pc year on year.
“Most of the reduction in plantings were in the regions that had a poor start and ended up with a very poor year.”
Oil percentages were mostly in the low 40s rather than the high 40s as seen in 2022, reflecting the quick accumulation period in 2023, rather than the slow cool grain-fill periods of the past two years.
Further detail on crop conditions in individual WA port zones can be found as part of the full report on the GIWA website.