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Hope springs with new season

by Peter McMeekin, origination manager, Nidera Australia , 05 September 2017

THE SUN-KISSED days blend into warm evenings and the cold winter months are cast aside. The deciduous trees break their winter dormancy with glorious displays of colour. Spring has arrived and with it comes much anticipation and optimism as the crops (in most regions) move into their critical reproductive phase.

Nidera Australia, Peter McMeekin

The major exception to this is Central Queensland where harvest commenced more than ten days ago. It is very early days and far too early to see any yield trends. Nonetheless, reports to date from the early chickpea and wheat harvests are quite promising, considering most producers have had very little rain since cyclone Debbie drenched the region in late March.

As we know, this season is nothing like the last and the “very little rain” story is not limited to Central Queensland. Growers in southern Queensland and many areas of northern and central New South Wales are also suffering the same fate. For many in these parts of Australia, summer brings a second cropping opportunity. The deteriorating winter crop optimism has given way to summer crop hope. Hope that the dry winter will turn into a wet spring and a possible summer crop plant will come to fruition. Hope that a summer production bonanza will replace a winter crop failure.

Of course, most regions of Australia do not have the luxury of a sorghum, cotton, corn or mung bean cropping option over the hot summer months. Their weather pattern is characterised by winter dominant rainfall and summer drought. Their only alternatives are the traditional wheat, barley, canola and pulse rotations common to many of the world’s temperate cropping regions.

In these areas, with the exception of Victoria and the Esperance zone in Western Australia, the lack of rain across autumn and winter has also dominated Saturday night pub talk. The bumper yields of last season have been replaced by average or below average expectations this season. In the northern districts of the Western Australian wheat belt many of the crops have already failed. If they germinated, they will barely return seed and the focus for many has now turned to footy finals or the upcoming cricket season.

However, across the southern most reaches of Australia’s winter cropping zone a wetter tone emerged in late July and through the month of August, replacing the dryer than average autumn and winter conditions experienced in many regions.

On the Eyre Peninsula (EP) in South Australia the start to the season had been extremely dry. Many areas were dominated by bare paddocks where the crop hadn’t been planted, or if it had, the germination was extremely poor.

The transformation following these recent rains has been spectacular. The outback hues have been replaced by a landscape of green, as dormant seed germinated and struggling crops gratefully accepted a new lease on life.

That said, the crop is very late and patchy in many areas and below average production is the most likely outcome at this stage.

Elsewhere, the recent rains have added some production certainty to the rest of South Australia, the Albany zone and southern parts of the Kwinana zone in Western Australia and southern New South Wales. The caveat here is that the crops are nothing like last year. They are patchy and/or late in many areas and the August rains have not always been general. Average, or even above average yields are a possibility for some and a dream for others.

I guess the one constant here is that Australian winter grain production is always beholden to the spring weather conditions. Plenty of rain and warm days are a luxury. Hot, dry and windy conditions are a disaster, not only for yield but also quality. A combination of both will return a very mixed bag across the country this season. It is all ahead of us at this point.

The bees are buzzing and the birds are chirping. Spring has sprung!

Source: Nidera Australia 

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