Cli­mate Unusu­ally high rain­fall

A bumper win­ter har­vest is fore­cast af­ter unusu­ally high rain­fall

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Ex­tremely high lev­els of rain­fall are ex­pected to con­trib­ute to a fore­casted 16 per cent in­crease in win­ter crop pro­duc­tion across Aus­tralia, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Agri­cul­tural and Re­source Eco­nom­ics and Sciences (ABARES) lat­est Aus­tralian Crop Re­port.

The quar­terly re­port, is­sued in Septem­ber be­fore some of the heav­ier rain­falls, as­sesses crop pro­duc­tion prospects for ma­jor field crops based largely on sea­sonal weather con­di­tions. It shows win­ter crop pro­duc­tion is set to in­crease across all states for the first time since 2007-2008.

Sea­sonal con­di­tions in most crop­ping re­gions dur­ing win­ter were very favourable, and crops were gen­er­ally in very good con­di­tion at the be­gin­ning of spring, ac­cord­ing to ABARES. But crops were water­logged by very high win­ter rain­fall in parts of New South Wales and far south­ern Western Aus­tralia, which is ex­pected to con­strain yields in these re­gions.

ABARES act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Peter Goo­day says win­ter crop pro­duc­tion fore­casts were pos­i­tive due to very favourable sea­sonal con­di­tions over win­ter and a favourable out­look for spring rain­fall.

“To­tal win­ter crop pro­duc­tion is fore­cast to rise by 16 per cent in 2016 to 2017 to a record 46.1 mil­lion tonnes, driven by sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in fore­cast pro­duc­tion in Western Aus­tralia and Vic­to­ria. Sea­sonal con­di­tions in most crop­ping re­gions dur­ing win­ter were very favourable, and crops are gen­er­ally in very good con­di­tion at the be­gin­ning of spring,” Goo­day says.

“In the eastern states, in­clud­ing South Aus­tralia, win­ter rain­fall was av­er­age to above av­er­age, and in Western Aus­tralia it was more vari­able but timely.

“In some re­gions, par­tic­u­larly in parts of New South Wales and far south­ern Western Aus­tralia, yields could be con­strained by wa­ter­log­ging, which re­sulted from very high win­ter rain­fall.”

Wheat and bar­ley pro­duc­tion is up 16 and 11 per cent re­spec­tively, and both are fore­cast to have the sec­ond most pro­duc­tive sea­son on record. Canola pro­duc­tion is fore­cast to be the third high­est on record (up 23 per cent), ac­cord­ing to ABARES.


Sum­mer crop fore­casts are also pos­i­tive, with the to­tal area of planted crops set to rise by 21 per cent in 2016 to 2017 to around 1.4 mil­lion hectares.

“Fore­cast in­creases in area planted to rice and cot­ton ex­pected to more than off­set a fore­cast fall in area planted to grain sorghum,” Goo­day says.

“Plant­ing con­di­tions for dry­land crops are ex­pected to be favourable, and sup­plies of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter for ir­ri­gated crops are ex­pected to be higher than in 2015-16. To­tal sum­mer crop pro­duc­tion is fore­cast to rise by 28 per cent to close to 4.8 mil­lion tonnes.”

Fore­cast pro­duc­tion will only hap­pen if spring rain­fall is suf­fi­cient and timely, es­pe­cially in re­gions of WA that had av­er­age-to-be­low av­er­age win­ter rain­fall. Ad­di­tion­ally, crops in some re­gions of Aus­tralia have de­vel­oped rel­a­tively shal­low root sys­tems, which will not read­ily ac­cess stores of lower layer soil mois­ture. Shal­low root sys­tems may reach stores of up­per layer soil mois­ture, but this can dis­ap­pear quickly in hot and dry con­di­tions.


The area planted to cot­ton is fore­cast to rise by 76 per cent in 2016-17 to 475,000 hectares. This is in re­sponse to higher world cot­ton prices, higher wa­ter lev­els in dams serv­ing Aus­tralian cot­ton-grow­ing re­gions, and favourable soil mois­ture in re­gions suit­able for grow­ing dry­land cot­ton.

Av­er­age stor­age level of public ir­ri­ga­tion dams serv­ing Aus­tralia’s cot­ton-grow­ing re­gions in Septem­ber was around 50 per cent of ca­pac­ity, com­pared to 35 per cent at the same time in 2015.

Aus­tralian cot­ton pro­duc­tion is fore­cast to rise by 51 per cent in 2016

17. But the av­er­age cot­ton yield is ex­pected to fall be­cause of a fore­cast in­crease in area planted to dry­land cot­ton, which has a sub­stan­tially lower av­er­age yield than ir­ri­gated cot­ton. Area planted to rice is fore­cast to rise to 90,000 hectares in 2016-17, al­most four times higher than in the pre­vi­ous sea­son. This re­flects a big rise in the sup­ply of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter avail­able to pro­duc­ers. Rice pro­duc­tion is also fore­cast to in­crease by al­most four times.


A wet­ter-than-av­er­age win­ter across much of Aus­tralia in­creased soil mois­ture and pro­vided good con­di­tions for growth and de­vel­op­ment of crops. Au­tumn 2016 had vari­able rain­fall but was Aus­tralia’s warm­est au­tumn on record. Win­ter 2016 was Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-wettest win­ter on record. Rain­fall in most crop­ping re­gions in each of the in­di­vid­ual months was well above av­er­age. The main ex­cep­tions were some crop­ping re­gions in WA, where win­ter rain­fall was gen­er­ally be­low av­er­age.


Max­i­mum and min­i­mum tem­per­a­tures are likely to be above av­er­age in Vic­to­rian and South Aus­tralian crop­ping re­gions. Crop­ping re­gions in Queens­land, NSW and WA have roughly equal chances of above- or be­lowa­v­er­age max­i­mum and min­i­mum tem­per­a­tures.

La Nina is likely to de­velop dur­ing late spring or sum­mer. How­ever, cli­mate mod­els sug­gest it won’t be as strong as the most re­cent one (2010-2012) – one of the strong­est on record. Dur­ing La Nina events, spring rain­fall is typ­i­cally above av­er­age in eastern Aus­tralia and the first rains of the trop­i­cal wet sea­son of­ten ar­rive ear­lier than nor­mal in north­ern Aus­tralia.

Map 2: This map shows key farm­ing ar­eas as hav­ing high-to-av­er­age lev­els of up­per layer soil mois­ture (sur­face to 0.1m, Source: BoM)

Map 1: Eastern Aus­tralia’s main wheatand sheep-farm­ing zones had their sec­ondwettest win­ter on record (Source: BoM)

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