Weather forecasters are predicting the best chance of general rain for Queensland’s cropping areas in weeks for early February. But time is running out for yield saving rains for Darling Downs sorghum farmers as continued dry weather and relentless heat takes its toll.
Farmers are hoping the weekend storms forecast for southern Queensland and Central Queensland holds true as it will be the last chance for crop saving rains for many. Sorghum conditions are highly variable across the Downs depending on where the storms have fallen, but all areas need rain to maintain yield prospects.
Computer weather models are forecasting heavy storms with upwards of 40mm through much of the Darling Downs and the southern areas of Central Queensland.
Most of the crop was planted early and has survived on sub soil moisture and patchy storm rain, but a finishing rain would still benefit crops. Only a limited area of sorghum in the Downs has been late planted, but these crops have struggled to get established and set roots into the sub-soil moisture below.
Both early and late planted sorghum crops would still benefit from the forecast weekend rain.
Central Queensland farmers are anxious to see rain from the storms as well to progress sorghum planting.
GrainCorp’s 2017/18 harvest review highlighted how challenging last year’s winter crop season was. Final Queensland 2017 winter crop grain deliveries were 557,250 tonnes which was 69 per cent down on the 1.787 million tonnes delivered in the 2016 season, GrainCorp reported. Similar declines were seen in NSW where grain deliveries were less than Victoria for the first time in four harvests, they said.
Limited winter rain through most of Queensland and NSW significantly cut yields, GrainCorp said. GrainCorp only received 5000t of grain in Thallon in the 2017 harvest, down from 285,000t in 2016, as crops struggled amid the absence of any finishing rains.
The biggest delivery site in Queensland for the 2017 harvest was Mt McLaren which received over 155,000t, followed by Dalby West with more than 85,000t.
Chickpeas handled the dry conditions better than cereal crops.
Global wheat markets rallied last week as concerns grow over the United States Hard Red Winter wheat crop, where expanding drought is jeopardising yields. Benchmark Chicago wheat futures rallied to a three-month high as the intensifying drought conditions triggered commodity funds to start exiting long-held short positions in wheat.
Black Sea and European export values also pushed higher last week.
US sorghum export quotes were also stronger as concerns over the size of Australia’s crop filter into global prices. Strong export demand from Chinese buyers has been supporting values for several weeks, and a smaller Australian harvest would push more of this demand to the US.
Queensland grain prices were mostly steady to firmer last week.
Darling Downs sorghum quotes were unchanged at $278 on Friday. However, this was before weather models boosted the chances of rainfall through key sorghum production regions.
Stockfeed wheat and feed barley was $3 to $5 higher at $325 to $330 delivered into Darling Downs destinations.