Winter sowing intentions: Victorian growers turn to oilseeds and pulses

Liz Wells, March 15, 2017

This week Grain Central is looking at winter sowing intentions for growers from State to State.  Today, Victoria and Tasmania are in the spotlight. 


VICTORIAN grain growers are primed to plant significant areas of canola, lentils and chickpeas this coming winter cropping season as price comparisons lure them away from cereals towards potentially more lucrative, but riskier, oilseed and pulse crops.

Lentils are set to be among the winners for Victorian growers this coming winter cropping season.

But underlying that, the timing of the arrival of break rains will ultimately determine which way producers will turn when deciding which options to go with.

GrainProducers Australia chairman and Wimmera farmer, Andrew Weidemann, said growers’ planting intentions would be based around what happened with the weather between now and the middle of April.

“If it is an early break, there will be as much canola as possible go into the ground. But if the season doesn’t break properly in Victoria until the middle of May we will see a bigger swing towards pulses than canola,” he said.

Mr Weidemann said some areas of Victorian had reasonable subsoil moisture levels, but the state was going through a very dry period at the moment.

“Traditionally our break is around May 20, so we will see a lot of decisions in the next five to six weeks around how much rain falls between the planting dates which are optimal around the last week of April to the first week of May, particularly for canola. That will dramatically influence the amount of canola grown,” he said.

Mr Weidemann said a wildcard to watch was recent market movement in terms of cereal prices.

“We are seeing wheat prices starting to creep back up, and barley as well. That is on the back of some of the noises out of China that their stockpiles of corn haven’t been as good a quality as they thought,” he said.

“We are starting to see a bit more inquiry from the Chinese buyers of feed grains into Australia, so that is a positive for the next crop.”

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president and grain grower at Quambatook in the southern Mallee, Brett Hosking, said grain prices were a key consideration for growers going into the winter cropping season, particularly the low prices for cereals.

Brett Hosking

“That is foremost in growers’ minds when they are considering their sowing intentions. They need to ensure there is a gross margin in it at the end,” he said.

He agreed that, as a result, there would be a swing away from cereals towards oilseeds and legumes.

“Lentils and chickpeas will be the main ones. There will be some faba beans and field peas as well. A fair bit of canola will go in,” he said.

Mr Hosking said Victoria’s above-average winter crop last year had not only resulted in a huge stockpile of grain up country and at port, but big on-farm stubble loads.

“How growers manage them will be a challenge. We may see a few paddocks burnt this year, purely for stubble management,” he said.

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Across Bass Strait in Tasmania, Burnie district grower, Michael Nichols, said winter cropping plans were up in the air as farmers were still struggling to harvest last season’s winter crops.

“We are having a terrible time with easterly weather and high moisture. It is taking ages,” he said.

“I still have barley, wheat, linseed and hemp to come off, then buckwheat after that. Normally we would be finishing up by now whereas there is still quite a lot in the ground, especially down the Midlands way.”

Mr Nichols said the delayed harvest would have implications for what growers would plant this coming season, especially for wheat.

“Wheat is seen as a cover crop for vegetables in this area, so if you struggle to get your basic crop off people will probably not bother growing it,” he said.

“I think there will be a reduction in area of wheat for next season because of the low price and the problem with harvest this year.

“Wheat sowing is from mid-April to July. There is still time for people to think about what they want to grow.”

While Mr Nichols would still plant his normal area of canola, he was one of only a few in the area to grow the crop and described the canola industry in Tasmania as “stagnant”.

“We have the double whammy of having to get it across to the mainland for any oil processing which incurs the extra freight,” he said.


See also Grain Central stories on:

Queensland sowing intentions:

NSW sowing intentions:


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