National harvest off to fast and early start

Liz Wells, October 11, 2023

Harvest has started for many WA growers this week including this operation at Watheroo. Photo: Joe Liebenberg, Hannaford Central Midlands seed treatment specialist

AUSTRALIA’S 2023-24 harvest is off to a fast and early start in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, with canola, pulses and cereals being stored on farm and delivered to consumers and bulk handlers.

In WA, early crops are yielding poorly to indicate what for some is the driest year to date on record, while in Central Qld, yields and quality have been average or below.

Crops in SA, southern Qld and northern NSW are all showing the impact of limited in-crop rain, but yields are expected to improve markedly as harvest rolls south in coming weeks.

Following is a round-up of conditions in harvesting states:


In CQ, Iker Ag agronomist Belinda Chase said the harvest for the region was around 75-80pc complete, and wheat quality has generally been ASW, APW or H2.

Chickpea yields have been 1.5-3t/ha, and wheat has generally been 2.5-3t/ha.

Ms Chase said growers did apply nitrogen, but the lack of growing-season rain prevented the plants from taking it up.

“We mined quite a bit of nitrogen with the yields we got last year, and we had stuff-all in-crop rain this year,” Ms Chase said.

Growers were generally harvesting by mid-September, and are hoping for good rain between now and January to get dryland sorghum and mungbeans planted.

On the Western Downs, Condamine grower Andrew Butler has finished harvesting wheat and expects to start harvesting chickpeas on the weekend.

“Our worst paddock was full of crown rot and went 2.2tha, and our best went 3.1t/ha.”

A small portion of the Butlers’ wheat just made Prime Hard at around 13pc protein, and the bulk of the loads made Hard specifications.

Reports of screenings at 20pc or more have come in, but these appear to be the exception, and some crops close to feedlots are being cut for hay, mostly because feedlots are paying good money to get roughage nearby.

“You only have to grow 1.5t/ha to beat what you’d get for hay.”

In southern Qld, InterGrain northern territory manager Matt Naumann said headers were rolling in the Bungunyah to Westmar districts and beyond.

“Plenty of crops are ready to go, and there’s some early-plant barley coming off at 3-4.5t/ha,” Mr Naumann said.

In-crop rain cut out for most paddocks in July, and therefore early-planted crops are expected to show a yield advantage, particularly if planted into good subsoil moisture.

At Meandarra, Coggan Farms started harvesting barley on September 23, and with barley completed, are having an enforced break while they wait for their other crops to fully ripen.

“Harvest is well under way in central and southern Queensland, with most activity centred around Mt McLaren, Yamala and Goondiwindi,” GrainCorp head of national operations Jason Shanley said.

“Quality across all commodities is excellent, which is really pleasing for the growers”.

New South Wales

Mr Shanley said first deliveries for northern NSW have come into GrainCorp’s Moree site.

“We expect them to build over the next week across most zones.

“Further south in NSW and Victoria, we’re starting to see samples come into sites, and lots of growers windrowing their canola.

“We expect receivals to come in within the next fortnight.

Moree-based AMPS agronomist Tony Lockrey said the crop had been “racing in” until some rain and cooler weather arrived last week, with canola windrowing the most advanced activity to date.

“Some people dropped canola a couple of weeks ago, and a couple of paddocks have had better-than-average yields, which is testament to subsoil moisture,” Mr Lockrey said.

“A few blokes are doing hay because those tablelands producers are chasing bulk, and hay prices are good.”

Cereal yields are not expected to be above average.

“What we have got is worth a lot of money, and even a 2t/ha crop will be worth a reasonable amount. “

Mr Lockrey said crown rot was evident in some wheat and durum crops, hardly surprising with high inoculum levels after last year’s big and wet harvest, and some growers planting back to back wheat and/or durum crops.

Faba beans are yielding 0.5-1.2t/ha, and barley around 2.5t/ha.

Harvest has started early and is expected to finish early too.

“We’ll be well and truly cleaned up by Melbourne Cup Day.”

In the West Wyalong district of south-central NSW, Cargill’s Grainflow has taken its first delivery for this harvest of canola.

South Australia

In its weekly harvest report, major SA bulk handler Viterra said growers had delivered 7712t into the network in the week to Sunday to lift total intake for the current harvest to 9001t.

Volume came mostly from Viterra’s Western region sites, with lentils making up the bulk of receivals, followed by wheat and barley.

In the week to Sunday, Cummins, Arno Bay, Lock, Wudinna and Penong in the Western region received their first deliveries for this harvest.

In the Central region, Wallaroo and Gladstone received their first loads for the season, and region operations manager Jack Tansley said these deliveries started the lentil and non-GM canola harvest for the region.

“It’s exciting to see the northern area lentil harvest commence with growers delivering to the new lentil segregation at Wallaroo,” Mr Tansley said.

“An additional drive-over hopper stacker will provide added elevation capacity at Wallaroo for local lentil growers to support them through what is expected to be a good season.

“Our Gladstone site welcomed their first delivery on Thursday, a load of canola, marking the first delivery of non-GM canola for the Central region.”

A Mid North grower delivered a load of new-season field peas to Viterra’s Inner Harbour site last Wednesday to mark the first 2023-24 delivery to the Eastern region site.

Western Australia

Coorow grower and Summit Fertilizers area manager Juliet McDonald said high screenings, high protein and low yields were showing up in early harvested crops.

However, results are expected to improve as harvest moves into the Geraldton zone’s southern half, and into the Kwinana, Albany and Esperance zones.

“A lot of places are sitting on 100mm or less of growing-season rain,” Ms McDonald said.

Yields of 0.7-2t/ha seem likely for wheat and barley in the drier parts of the Geraldton zone, where Ms McDonald said best canola yields look 1.2t/ha.

“Most of the canola did flower and did pod, but some crops haven’t filled pods.”

Yields are expected to lift markedly once harvest gets closer to Perth.

“Moora and south is looking pretty good, and eastern sections like Merredin were looking good early on but haven’t had much moisture since August.”

“North of Morawa, 14-15pc screenings is an issue for wheat, and some barley could be undeliverable.”

Miling grower Tony White said his harvest is expected to start in coming days, roughly two weeks earlier than normal.

“We’ve had 160mm of rain for the year; that makes it our driest year ever in 110 years,” Mr White said.

A paddock cut for hay has yielded a sobering 1t/ha.

“This northern part of WA is pretty crook, but a fair bit of WA is going to do okay.”

The Whites will be harvesting barley, wheat and lupins, and yields for all crops are expected to be below average.

“The big plus is that even in this really dry season, with the genetics we have, we’ve grown a crop.

“In the 1969, my father struggled to grow a crop on 200mm of rain, so congratulations to the breeders.”

Yuna was the first CBH Group site to open this harvest, and has been joined by several other sites in the Geraldton zone including Geraldton terminal, Moora, and Northampton.

Harvest has just started in the Esperance zone, and most growers in the Geraldton zone will be harvesting by the end of next week, weather permitting.


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