Rain halts harvest for some in SE Australia

Liz Wells, November 27, 2023

Rain has stopped harvest at some farms including this one in Victoria’s West Wimmera. Photo: John Bennett

RAIN across south-eastern Australia has halted harvest for some growers, and sparked concerns about downgrading if this week brings further falls as forecast.

In the Victorian Mallee, registrations in the week to 9am today include: Birchip 20mm, Ouyen 32mm, and Woomelang 37mm.

Wimmera registrations include: Dimboola 35mm; Jeparit 35mm; Horsham 57mm, and Nhill 77mm.

In South Australia, the heaviest falls were concentrated in the state’s South East, include 119mm at Naracoorte, 76mm at Frances, and Lameroo 33mm.

Karoonda in the Murray-Mallee received 32mm, and Murray Bridge got 39mm, but most other SA cropping locations received less than 20mm, and many received only a few millimetres or nothing.

In northern New South Wales, growers in later areas are dealing with the mixed blessing of rain on unharvested winter cereals and a boost to their summer-cropping prospects.

Heaviest NSW falls included: Coonamble 89mm; Condobolin 36mm; Cootamundra 19mm; Deniliquin 33mm; Parkes 48mm, and Wagga Wagga 38mm.

In northern Vic, Boort Grain Co-op manager Jon Bucknall said the northern Victorian district has generally had 25-50mm since Friday morning, and up to 25mm is forecast for tomorrow, with more rain predicted for Wednesday.

Mr Bucknall manages the co-operative’s sites at Boort and also Nandaly in the Mallee, and said harvest across the sites appeared to be around 40pc through before the rain.

“Around Boort, we’d be around 70pc through on canola, 50-60pc through on barley, and we’ve only just started on wheat, so maybe 10-20pc through,” Mr Bucknall said.

He said wheat quality at both sites has been good to date, and around 90pc of wheat has been ASW with high test weights, low screenings, and no sprouting.

“We’ve seen very little APW so far, even at Nandaly.”

It continues the eastern Australian trend of unusually low wheat protein, caused by a lack of in-crop rain in some districts, timely spring rain in others, and limited urea supplies or application after planting as growers and fertiliser agencies geared up for an El Niño season.

Post rain, Mr Bucknall said some downgrading may well be seen.

“We’ve got the falling numbers machine out.

“On quality, I think we’d get through on the rain we’ve had, but rain in the next couple of days could mean potential for staining to come through on barley, and for shot and sprung on the wheat and lentils.”

Consensus is that half the Vic barley harvested to date has made malting specifications, a better-than-average result, but staining and black tip may prompt downgrades to feed segregations.

Mr Bucknall said Mallee wheat crops have been yielding better than average at around 5.5 tonnes per hectare.

At Rutherglen in northern Vic, grower and Victorian Farmers Federation president Ashley Fraser had 35mm over the weekend, and has 10-20mm forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday.

He said rain this week was something most Vic farmers could have done without, with most of the state’s canola in the bin, but considerable barley and pulse areas, and most of the state’s wheat still standing.

On the Fraser farm, the rain has fallen between the family’s canola and wheat harvests.

“Our canola harvest’s finished…and our wheat isn’t quite ready anyway,” Mr Fraser said.

In all but the South East of SA, and on the southern and inner south-west slopes of NSW, most growers are past the halfway mark on their harvest.


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