Feeling the frost bite
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.