Best sorghum crop in a decade for Western Downs growers

Brandon Long
By Brandon Long
January 19 2022 - 5:00am
LONG TIME COMING: Daniel Wegener in what is looking like his best sorghum crop in 10 years at Karingal, Brigalow. Photos: Brandon Long

Growers on the Western Downs have started harvesting what is shaping up to be the best sorghum crop in a decade.

Timely growing season rainfall combined with grain prices of around $280 to $300 per tonne have brought relief to some of the region's farmers who have dealt with years of dry conditions and a spike in input prices more recently.



Large rainfall events at the tail end of last year set up crops around Brigalow, with some farms receiving 280mm in November and 120mm in December to take the year's total to 860mm - a 50 per cent increase on the average.

Daniel Wegener started harvesting his early planted crop at Brigalow property Karingal on January 3 and has finished about 70 per cent.

Mr Wegener, who farms with his wife Melissa, three children, and his parents Neil and Cath, said he had not seen a crop like this in 10 years.

"We've had one or two paddocks in the last few years that have done well, but nothing this high yielding since 2012," Mr Wegener said.

"From 2013 onwards it's been dry. The 2018-19 season was the driest I can remember."

Readouts from the header are showing an average of 7.5t/ha, but it's still too early to celebrate.

Mr Wegener planted 350ha of early sorghum across three different dates - August 1, 11 and 18 - followed by 200ha of later planted sorghum and applied 230kg/ha of urea.

"I've been experimenting with different planting dates since 2016 to see how early we can get away with it. It's always been a concern that going too early has a frost risk, but planting in October, there's a pretty high risk of stinking hot weather this time of year when you're trying to fill grain too."

IN THE BIN: Daniel Wegener harvests this season's sorghum with a chaser bin in tow.

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So far, Mr Wegener has sold 1100 tonnes at $298 on-farm, with about three quarters of that already delivered to port.

Neighbours Terry Dalgliesh and Greg Dalgliesh at property Galtymore began harvesting their early planted sorghum on Tuesday.

"At the moment, I'd have to say it's nearly some of the best sorghum I've ever been in," Terry said.

"The header is showing us about seven tonnes to the hectare, but we're only in one variety so far. There's patches getting up to eight or nine tonnes to the hectare which is just unbelievable, but it depends what the average is."

Mr Dalgliesh said the promising crop was welcome after a "fairly lean five years" and the rising cost of inputs.

"Urea and chemicals are ridiculous at the moment. Normally a 110-tonne order costs us around $50,000 to $60,000 and it was nearly $150,000."



The pair planted 600ha in late-August and finished their 400ha late plant on December 18.

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Brandon Long

Brandon Long

Queensland Country Life journalist

Brandon Long is a Queensland Country Life journalist based in Toowoomba.

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