Dry win­ter has farm­ers hop­ing spring doesn’t go against grain

The Australian - - THE NATION - MERED­ITH BOOTH

Nathan We­gener knows he is lucky to be stand­ing waist-high in wheat fields on his fam­ily farm at Calling­ton, 50km east of Ade­laide, while others are hurt­ing from a dry start to the sea­son.

The broad­acre farmer said con­di­tions were “just right” to plant his crops in April when it was too wet for his peers in the state’s south­east and too dry for those in the premium western re­gions of the Eyre and Yorke penin­su­las.

A mild spring will give him hope this crop will come close to last year’s 50-year record.

“Last year was the best year for us that we’ve ever had ... but prices are look­ing bet­ter than last year,’’ Mr We­gener said. “A hot fin­ish will be our big­gest con­cern. We’ll do well as long as we get a mild fin­ish with a lit­tle bit of rain.”

Spring rain may be the saviour for farm­ers across the na­tion’s ma­jor grain-grow­ing re­gions af­ter a dry win­ter that sapped their con­fi­dence to a four-year low.

The Aus­tralian Crop Re­port, re­leased last week, shows the na­tion’s win­ter crop will fall 39 per cent to 36.3 mil­lion tonnes, from last sea­son’s “ex­cep­tion­ally high yields”, with South Aus­tralia ex­pected to fare worse than the na­tional av­er­age, down 43 per cent to 6.4 mil­lion tonnes, down from last sea­son’s 11 mil­lion tonnes. The re­port, pub­lished by the Aus­tralian Bureau of Agri­cul­tural Re­source Eco­nomics and Scien- ces, fore­casts wheat pro­duc­tion to fall 38 per cent to 21.6 mil­lion tonnes, bar­ley down 40 per cent to eight mil­lion tonnes and canola 33 per cent lower at 2.8 mil­lion tonnes across the south­ern states.

Grains Pro­duc­ers SA chief ex­ec­u­tive Dar­ren Ar­ney said the dry start to win­ter meant 300,000 fewer hectares of grain planted across the state, as farm­ers ei­ther didn’t take the risk of plant­ing seed or lost their crop be­fore rain picked up in July. But all was not lost, with rain over the next two months likely to boost yields con­sid­er­ably.

Mr Ar­ney said grow­ers in the state’s south­east had the op­po­site prob­lem of too much rain putting their crops at risk of dis­ease.

Har­vests on Eyre and Yorke penin­su­las would be up to six weeks later than usual, he said.

“It’s been an amaz­ing turn­around to where we were two months ago but it’s still too wet in some spots and we still need to see rain­fall in Oc­to­ber in Eyre and Yorke penin­su­las,’’ he said.

South Aus­tralia last year pro­duced 11 mil­lion tonnes of grain, which was near record highs; reap­ing al­most $3 bil­lion for farm­ers. It was too early to forecast, but pro­duc­tion this sea­son was likely to be closer to the av­er­age of 7.5 mil­lion tonnes.

Eyre Penin­sula In­te­grated Com­modi­ties grain bro­ker Steve Whillas said some farm­ers on the penin­sula had with­stood a dry June and were now hop­ing for a cool spring, while others had lost their crops. “The last month has been favourable to the grow­ers and there’s been some rain in the last week which has given grow­ers a lit­tle bit more con­fi­dence,” he said.

KELLY BARNES

Broad­acre farmer Nathan We­gener, with his son Brett among their wheat crop at Calling­ton, 50km east of Ade­laide, is hop­ing for a mild spring as they look to match last year’s record har­vest

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.