National crop has September blues

National winter crop losing yield potential due to frost, heat

Cropping
Crops across the nation have endured a tough September.

Crops across the nation have endured a tough September.

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There is some serious downside risk to current national crop projections, due to heavy frosts and dry conditions.

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AUSTRALIA'S national crop has come under siege, with a horror September in Western Australia in particular putting forecast yields in severe doubt.

In its September crop report the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) has cut 10.2 per cent of its estimate of the WA crop from its August forecast.

GIWA is now predicting total production of 12.3 million tonnes, down from 13.7m tonnes, with wheat production of 6.8m tonnes.

WA Farmers grains section president Duncan Young said a combination of heat in the north and a catastrophic frost in the Esperance port zone meant some had doubts whether total production would reach even that.

"There is still a patch of reasonable crop in the Kwinana port zones but in other areas the crop is really going to struggle," Mr Young said.

"In the Geraldton port zone they have been smacked about by some really hot weather in September, we've seen temperatures up into the high 30s so plenty of crops in that region are going to struggle to make a tonne to the hectare - some rain would help but a lot of the damage has already been done."

Mr Young said the prospects for the south-east were less well established, but added the freak frost event was drastic.

"Some people have said to me they expect it could be a 30-40pc yield loss across the entire Esperance zone, which is a very big cut, but we're really in uncharted territory on this one.

"You saw places like Salmon Gums get down as low as -5.4 and stay that cold for a long time so there is the potential for it to be fairly drastic, the farmers will find out more over the coming weeks.

Some, however, have already seen enough.

"I've heard reports of crops being cut for hay, there is interest in tapping into the east coast market."

The Riverina is another region where the season is at a crossroads.

"Every week the dry point pushes that little bit further south," said Barooga, NSW, farmer John Bruce.

"There is still some crop that is looking pretty good, but we're really monitoring the rain event due at the end of the week, it is due to get hot beforehand and if we don't get the rain I would expect the crop will hit a wall very quickly."

He said northern and western Riverina crops were doing it toughest, while those closer to the Murray looked better.

"All over, however, its been dry again, it really is remarkable how good the crops look, but we're really worried about that hot weather, I'd be more concerned about a run of hot days than frost at this stage."

Mr Bruce said hay-making was again going to be popular, especially as there was more biomass in the crops this year.

Grain Growers chairman Brett Hosking said there had been frost in Victoria through September.

"There was some a couple of weeks ago, at this stage farmers are hoping there wasn't too much damage, but we've had a frost this week that was heavy in parts with a couple more cold nights to go."

At present he said only dedicated hay crops, such as vetch, had been cut in his own area in the south-eastern Mallee, but said farmers on heavier soil types in the Northern Country were weighing up whether to cut crops while they had their best feed value.

Malcolm Bartholomaeus, Bartholomaeus Consulting, said in his home state of South Australia conditions were patchy.

"At present most crop is going backwards, with the possible exception of the south-east which is generally pretty good.

"Some areas, such as the eastern Mallee are not going to have much of a harvest, but others it will depend on what happens in the next few weeks.

"At this stage there is less hay being cut than last year but that could change if there are further frosts or if it comes in with a hot spell."

The story National crop has September blues first appeared on Farm Online.

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