Grain growers are sitting on a potential record grain crop this year following an outstanding first three months of the season, experts say, provided average rain is recorded between now and the harvest, which begins in October.
An abrupt change in the weather pattern in the past week has left the industry nervous that a dry finish to the growing may again curtail a promising outlook.
Primary Industries & Regions SA on Wednesday released the State Government’s first forecast for the season, predicting a large 7.9 million tonne grain crop, slightly below the five-year average of 8.27mt and less than last year’s 8.5 million tonne crop.
But Malcolm Bartholomaeus, director of leading grain analyst AvantAgri Australia, said the state should achieve a record crop this year if average rain falls in the next few months.
The government report said the yield potential of cereal crops in most areas of the state is above average, with high levels of stored soil moisture and relatively low disease levels.
“Early sowing combined with mild conditions during May and early June enabled crops to grow rapidly in most areas of the state and many crops are two to three weeks ahead of normal crop development,” the report says.
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said the estimate for a 7.9mt crop equates to a farm gate value of about $1.5 billion and an export value of $2.1 billion.
“While the crop production estimate is well above average, global prices, particularly for wheat, have eased compared to last year, potentially reducing returns to growers, and the value of grain exports should the low prices continue into the harvest,” he said.
Mr Bignell said there was a lot of optimism about this season’s crop due to the good rainfall and high levels of soil moisture.
“Grain production is one of South Australia’s most important industries,” he said. “It’s sustainable, irrigation-free and GM-free, and uses minimal fertilisers and chemicals.
Mr Bartholomaeus said rainfall in August would be critical because if the rain starts to drop away, farmers become reliant on a good spring finish.
“The thing that worries me about a week without rain and another week until anything is forecast, is it suggests a possible change in the weather pattern,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.
Grain Producers SA president Garry Hansen said the development of mines on prime agricultural land, a controversy that has divided some rural communities, would only lead to a very small loss in overall grain tonnages.
But the big issue was what affect mining may have on surrounding farms if they are unable to stop the dust from contaminating grain or water tables, while the development of other industries and more housing in regional areas had the potential to reduce the land available for cropping.
The report predicts a 4.6mt wheat crop, 1.9mt of barley, 334,500t of canola and 182,000t of durum.
This year’s official forecast is well short of the record 10.34 million tonnes grain harvest in 2010.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/australia-grain-growers-hope-rain-will-continue-to-spring-to-ensure-record-harvest)