Feel­ing the frost bite

Central and North Rural Weekly - - DROUGHT FEA­TURE - Madeleine Stuch­bery news@ru­ral­weekly.com

HOPES for record-break­ing grain pro­duc­tion out of Western Aus­tralia have been dashed, with frost dam­ag­ing an es­ti­mated half a mil­lion tonnes of grain in one fell swoop at the weekend.

As late as last Fri­day, the Grain In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Western Aus­tralia re­leased a re­port declar­ing the state on track for a bumper har­vest, with pro­jected to­tal grain yield at 16.3 mil­lion tonnes.

GIWA chair Michael La­mond said se­vere frost swept through the WA Lakes Dis­trict early Satur­day, with tem­per­a­tures plung­ing to mi­nus 4 de­grees in parts of the state.

“The frost was wide­spread, and the crops af­fected most were bar­ley and, to some ex­tent, canola,” Mr La­mond said.

“Wheat crops in gen­eral weren’t as ad­vanced. There was some da­m­age, but not as se­vere as the bar­ley crops. It’s es­ti­mated about 500,000 tonnes of bar­ley could be wiped out, or more.”

Mr La­mond said GIWA’s Fri­day fore­cast of 16.3 mil­lion tonne to­tal grain pro­duc­tion would be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected.

“We were pro­ject­ing about 10 mil­lion tonne of wheat, about 4 mil­lion tonne of bar­ley and 1.3 mil­lion of canola. The bar­ley ... there’s no way it’ll make 4 mil­lion tonne now. It’ll be strug­gling to make 3.5 mil­lion tonne,” Mr La­mond said.

Mr La­mond ac­knowl­edged the na­tional im­pact of a frost-dam­aged WA crop.

“The (na­tional) wheat ton­nage could eas­ily swing an­other mil­lion tonnes due to drought stress,” he said.

“WA has an­other frost fore­cast for Tues­day, which won’t be good. If there’s no rain in the east over the next week, it could eas­ily drop about a mil­lion tonnes.”

While news of frost da­m­age could be dis­heart­en­ing for WA grow­ers, Mr La­mond said there were still op­tions to deal with af­fected crops.

“There’s al­ways hay. The re­ally badly af­fected ar­eas will just get knocked down for hay,” Mr La­mond said.


BAD FROST: Half a mil­lion tonnes of grain was dam­aged overnight at the weekend.

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