Rain devastates Downs sorghum in harvest window

Emma Alsop April 2, 2024

Rain has caused severe damage to some ripe sorghum crops. Photo: Kerry McKenzie

UP TO half the southern Queensland sorghum crop could be downgraded due to rain damage, and the situation will worsen if further rain falls in coming days.

Rain coupled with overcast conditions over four consecutive days last week have caused some shelling out of grain, which has impacted yields, with sprouting affecting quality and test weights.

Totals from that event varied across the Downs and included: Dalby 47mm; Emerald 1mm; Felton 24mm; Jondaryan 35mm; Miles 110mm; Roma 91mm, and Springsure 32mm.

With a brief spell of dry conditions across the Easter long weekend, many Downs growers have taken the opportunity to harvest as much as possible, despite high moisture levels.

AgForce grains president and Warra grower Brendan Taylor said parts of his property are inaccessible following the 75mm he received.

“We are getting it off where we can but where our best sorghum is, we can’t get to because it’s too wet from the rain last week,” Mr Taylor said.

“It was horrendous timing with the harvest, and has done considerable damage to the crop already with sprouting and shelling out.

“Some paddocks around here, there could be a tonne to the hectare on the ground already from shelling.”

Due to dry conditions in November, most of the Downs sorghum was planted during a two-week period late in the window, and only around 10pc had been harvested before last week’s rain.

Nutrien Ag Solutions Dalby agronomist Ross Pomroy said this meant “about 80pc of the sorghum crop” was in a “vulnerable stage” last week.

Mr Taylor said the situation would only get worse if the region gets the rain forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, namely more than 5omm for Dalby, Roma and Toowoomba, over the next few days.

“We have already seen significant losses, so if we get another big rainfall event, we could see things get ten times worse.

“Depending on what the weather does, we could see entire crops lost.”

Downgrades seen

Mr Pomroy said he had reports that sorghum harvested over Easter had sprouting levels above 10pc and “would not meet Sorghum 2 specs”.

“It’s only early days at the moment and we are still trying to get a handle on things,” Mr Pomroy said.

Mr Taylor said his recently harvested sorghum had moisture levels of 14-15pc and “was not even meeting the grain-moisture receival standards”.

He said the rain hit major growing regions, with “big tonnes” of out-of-spec or SORX/SGMX crops expected to swamp the market in coming months.

“There will be big tonnes of it, so the market is going to have to come to terms with that outcome.”

An industry source has told Grain Central that the market has already responded to the report of downgrades, with the Sorghum 1 market rallying $15/t yesterday.

Higher yields predicted

Mr Pomroy said the outcome was even more disappointing for growers who were eyeing “magnificent” sorghum yields before the wet weather.

“We definitely grew a magnificent crop and if it wasn’t for four days of rain, we would be harvesting an absolute magic sorghum crop.”

Mr Taylor said the crop was shaping up to be “potentially the best sorghum we have ever seen”.

He said there were reports of sorghum harvested before the rain returning yields of 7.5-9t/ha.

He said sections of the crop yet to be harvested were looking “as good or better”.

Staff at Kurstjens Farming Australia’s Beefwood Farms north of Moree power through the sorghum harvest. Photo: Beefwood Farms

NSW races rain

In New South Wales, crops in the state’s north-west and on the Liverpool Plains are forecast to receive significant rain over the next few days.

AMPS Moree agronomist Tony Lockrey said growers “were trying to get as much off as they can before the rain event”.

“They have the headers going flat out right now, just smoking it,” Mr Lockrey said.

Beefwood/Kurstjens Farming manager Glenn Coughran said the operation, which farms between Moree and the Qld border, was pushing to finish harvest ahead of the rain.

“We’ve been harvesting all through Easter and we are almost on the home straight,” Mr Coughran said.

He said the operation was pushing the headers to the limits to get the crop off.

First sorghum receivals coming into GrainCorp at Moree on February 26. Photo: GrainCorp

“We’ve been averaging 90t per hour per machine, and we’ve cracked 600t per hour.”

Mr Coughran said yields were looking “excellent” and averaged about 5.8t/ha.

The Beefwood yields are on the higher end of the scale, with Mr Lockrey estimating yields from the current crop to range from 4.5-6t/ha, above average for the region.

He said this was an improvement on some of the earlier crops which were “moisture limited” and saw yields of 2.5-3t/ha.

Liverpool Plains patchy

In the Liverpool Plains, Hunt Ag Solutions principal Jim Hunt said about 40pc of the crop had been harvested to date.

He said growers were also powering through the harvest to beat the rain predicted to hit the region.

“We are going through the harvest as fast as we can,” Mr Hunt said.

“We have still got a lot to get off.”

Mr Hunt said there was a wide variety of yields, depending on if the crop received rain.

“The yields are all over the joint because we had no rain through the season, and it was all down to storms.”

He said yields from crops which were under a storm could be above-average compared to sorghum in drier areas, which could see average yields at best.

The ABARES Crop Report released on March 5 forecast Australia’s sorghum crop to reach 2 million tonnes in 2023–24, with 1.4Mt of this coming from Queensland.

It estimated NSW yields to average 3.7t/ha, slightly above the Queensland predicted average of 3.37t/ha.


Get our free news straight to your inbox – Click here


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Grain Central's news headlines emailed to you -