Sorghum crops feeling the heat

Variable weather conditions are playing havoc with sorghum crops in parts of Queensland

Sorghum harvest is expected to get underway in parts of Queensland but variable weather conditions have created an uncertain outlook.

Sorghum harvest is expected to get underway in parts of Queensland but variable weather conditions have created an uncertain outlook.


Variable weather conditions lead to mixed outlook for sorghum crops and low grain exports


Patchy spring and early summer rainfall, coupled with stretches of scorching temperatures, have led to a variable outlook for the 2019 sorghum crop.

Good October and December rain has put most of the Darling Downs on a solid footing, but some other areas have not fared as well.

Most of the Darling Downs sorghum crop was planted after good October rain, but parts of the central and southern Downs did not get crops planted until mid-December. Early harvesting of the southern Queensland sorghum crop should start by the middle of January. Harvest is likely to be prolonged, as more recently planted crops will not be ready for harvest until April-May.

Overall, Darling Downs farmers are happy with how the summer crop season has turned out following the poor winter crop harvest. Dalby, Jandowae, Macalister, Warra, Condamine and Miles enjoyed the best of the rains and farmers are expecting some good yields.

Crops are patchier in the central and southern Downs, where rainfall has not been as good. This has exposed farmers to the risks associated with dry paddocks after 18 months of drought.

Most of the Downs area had between 40 and more than 100 millimetres of rain during December, but farmers were mostly surprised about how quickly the soil dried out. Late sorghum and mung beans were planted after the rain, but some farmers could not get all of their intended crop planted.

Scorching December temperatures have also caused problems this season. December temperatures were 3 to 5 degrees Celsius above average. This is unlikely to be an issue for crops that had adequate rain. But in drier areas, particularly in northern NSW, crops have suffered.

Time is running out for many central Queensland farmers to plant sorghum. Some areas around Clermont have had enough rain to start sowing, but conditions around Emerald and Springsure are still too dry. Clermont recorded 80-90mm in December, but most of the central highlands region only recorded 15-20mm. Most central Queensland farmers should have sorghum crops planted by early February.

The outlook for NSW sorghum crops is variable. October rains of 60-80mm triggered a patchy planting in some parts, but many areas are still suffering from ongoing dry weather. It is unlikely crops will be sown in parts of Moree and Narrabri due to lack of soil moisture.The situation is slightly better in the eastern Liverpool Plains, but the overall crop is expected to fall well short of the early season forecasts of more than 0.5 million tonnes.

The impacts of Australia’s devastating east coast drought continue to be felt across all sectors of the industry. Before the start of the 2018 winter crop harvest, national wheat exports tumbled to negligible levels as grain flows were diverted to fill domestic demand shortfalls. 

Australia’s November 2018 wheat exports fell to 320,000t, down from 407,000t in October.


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