Summer croppers sweat on approaching rain front

Liz Wells, February 4, 2020

Figure 1: Total forecast rainfall for the four days, February 4-7. (Source: BOM)

THE prospect of further rains in the northern farming zone over the next few days is good news for growers who managed to plant late summer crops on the widespread, but patchy, falls of a fortnight ago.

Further falls this week will benefit emerging crops of mungbeans, millet, forage sorghum and late grain sorghum, and might also prompt a few extra late crops to be sown.

At the least, they will contribute to building the soil moisture profile for much-needed winter crops.

On Queensland’s Darling Downs, Landmark senior agronomist, Hugh Reardon-Smith, Pittsworth, said the earlier rains had been patchy with some people getting well over 100 millimetres for January and others only 35 or 40mm.

Hugh Reardon-Smith

“So, some have been able to plant, some have only been able to plant some paddocks. We have seen quite a lot of forage sorghum go in, only a little grain sorghum, some corn on irrigation for silage, a reasonable amount of mungbeans and a few sunflowers,” he said.

“A lot of growers would have liked to have planted, but there were too many dry patches in paddocks or not enough subsoil moisture.

“Even if there is rain in the next few days, there will be very little planting as the sowing window has closed. You are pushing the boundaries if you sow that late.

“I think we will see quite a long winter season with people looking at early planting options for winter crop.”

Pulse Australia industry development manager, Paul McIntosh, Toowoomba, said even for those growers who had had 100 millimetres or more over the last two or three weeks there was no guarantee they had enough moisture in the soil to plant.

“As a consequence, those who have gone in and planted something, be it millet, mungbeans or even grain sorghum, will desperately want some follow up rain to make it an even strike and put more moisture in the ground before it all evaporates,” he said.

“There is a lot of millet, forage sorghum and mungbeans going in. There is some grain sorghum, mainly by people who have bought the seed and have it in the shed. There is a lot of pressure on people to grow something.

“So, there have been plantings that have gone in not only on the amount of moisture that is available but other factors that come into why they plant crops like grain sorghum (at this late stage).

“Sowing late brings the possibility of an Anzac Day frost and also extends the length of dry down time needed for the grain.”

Mr McIntosh said the rains have triggered a flush of weeds emerging such as feather top Rhodes grass, barnyard grass, Urochloa grasses, cowvine, peachvine,bladder ketmia, pigweeds, and amaranthus.

Farmers were busy mounting spraying programs to get on top of the weed outbreak.

Australian Mungbean Association president, Mark Schmidt, Dalby, said a reasonable crop of mungbeans had been planted on the rains of a fortnight ago.

Mark Schmidt

“Forecasts of further rain this week will help the crops in the ground and will mean some more will be sown. The planting window is closing for New South Wales, but on the Darling Downs some growers will still plant towards the end of February,” he said.

“The big opportunity will be for central Queensland where they can plant until the end of February very safely.”

Mr Schmidt said mungbean prices were holding up with good demand from all parts of the world and a shortfall of product available now.

“For the lower, manufacturing grade we are seeing prices of $1100/tonne plus and for the processing grade $1200/t plus, which is a bit higher than we normally see,” he said.

Mr Schmidt said there had also been a significant planting of millet in the main growing region on the Darling Downs, mainly north of Oakey and in the Jandowae region where there had been substantial rains.

“The planting window for millet is still open until the end of February. That is the irony, it has either been too wet or too dry in some areas. Hopefully the rain coming will fill in the gaps and enable people to put a bit more in,” he said.


The Australian Mungbean Association will be holding its 2020-2025 Strategic Planning Meeting in Toowoomba next week, February 11-12.



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