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Early harvest delivers surprisingly good yields and grain quality for many

The fourth and final batch of seasonal update videos for 2023 released this week by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre reflect the switch from La Nina to El Nino.

According to the latest crop report from ABARES, national winter crop production has fallen after three years of record highs to 46.1 million tonnes in 2023-2024, slightly below the 10-year average.

Nonetheless, many growers across the country have reported surprisingly good yields and grain quality despite the challenging season.

ABARES 2023-2024 production estimates for Western Australia have dropped further to 14.5 million tonnes, which is 24% less than the five-year average.

ABARES estimates for the other states are:

  • New South Wales 10.3 million tonnes (down 15.4% on the five-year average)

  • Victoria 9.6 million tonnes (up 21.5%)

  • South Australia 9.2 million tonnes (up 15%)

  • Queensland 1.7 million tonnes (down 19%).

AEGIC’s videos feature grain producers from across the nation speaking about the progress of their production programs during the growing season, and come with subtitles in eight languages.

The videos are made by AEGIC in collaboration with organisations from across the Australian grains supply chain, including support from GPA, to provide insights for export customers and grain buyers.

This year the format has been tweaked to include a summary at the start of each video.

Eastern states

According to the December AEGIC update, harvest in Queensland finished with average yields and mixed grain quality.

Heavy rain fell across a wide area in November, interrupting harvest in some parts of central and southern NSW and Victoria.

Harvest is mostly finished in northern NSW and continuing further south with reports of decent yields and better than expected grain quality.

Mark Merrett (above), of Kaniva in western Victoria, said barley yielded well considering the very dry finish to the season.

“We’re concerned for the wheat – we will have some frost .. and quality issues from the rain,” he said. “But it will be what it will be and we’ll make our way through it.”

Fiona Marshall, of Mulwala in the NSW Riverina, said rainy conditions had given harvest crews the chance to have a few days’ rest.

The canola crop had returned average yields and above average oil content, while faba beans were very high quality and above average yields.

“Barley this year had above average yields, with most of it going malting (grade),” she said. “Our wheat crops are still to be harvested but are looking to be above average in yield but possibly slightly below average in protein content.”

David Robb of Goondiwindi in southern Queensland, said it had been a challenging season but they managed to grow a crop, despite limited in-crop rainfall which varied from 12mm to 45mm.

“(It) was quite good considering a lot of people around us didn’t have as much,” he said. “So it’s quite nice to get a harvest this year.”

South Australia

An earlier than usual start to harvest and limited rain interruptions meant most growers expected to be wrapped up by the end of December. Yields have been average to above average and grain quality good.

Steve Glover, of Yeelanna, said there had been no rain delays and grain quality was good.

“At this point we’re about five weeks in front of where we were last year,” he said.

Simon Goss of Brinkworth, said most crops had exceeded expectations given the dry season, with above average yields and quality “as good as I’ve ever seen in my short farming career”.

Robin Schaefer, of Loxton, said they had started harvest in late October after a challenging season.

“Fortunately, we had good stored (soil) moisture from last year so most crops held on surprisingly well and grain quality ... has been really good,” he said. “Yields have been ... average to a bit below average,”

Gary Virgin, of Bordertown, SA, said they had “dodged a bullet” experiencing three surprisingly dry months, but subsoil moisture had helped deliver good yields.

Western Australia

The early, lighter than expected harvest – thanks to hot, dry weather – is expected to be mostly finished by the end of the year, despite some rain interruptions. Grain quality has been mixed but regarded as surprisingly good in some areas.

Harvest ended in the Geraldton Zone in mid-December, the earliest finish in memory.

The Kwinana Zone has been a mixed bag, with some crops preforming well and others very poorly.

Rain slowed harvest in some parts of the Albany Zone and overall yields have been lower than expected, although some growers had reported good yields and grain quality.

Harvest in the Esperance Zone was nearing completion, with mixed yields and grain quality.

Simon Wallwork, of Corrigin, had finished harvest and said canola and barley yields were average.

“This is slightly below expectations given that we had slightly above average growing season rainfall,” he said. “We’re putting this down to some warm, dry conditions in September and October.”

Simon, who is a GPA member, said canola oil content varied from 45% to 48% and most barley was classed as feed quality because of higher screenings.

Speaking from his header, Stuart Hocking (below), of Boxwood Hill, said harvest results had been positive, with above average yields and high protein in the wheat.

“We’ve had a few interruptions with weather but apart from that it’s been a very smooth harvest,” he said.


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