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Season shapes up as a mixed bag for Australian grain producers

The second batch of seasonal update videos for 2023 released last week by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre indicate a mixed bag for growers across the country.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest climate outlook is for drier and warmer conditions across most of Australia’s major grain growing regions, influenced by a likely El Nino and positive Indian Ocean dipole, and record warm oceans globally.

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 August AEGIC update, crops across eastern Australia were generally in a good position after a wet start to winter, but conditions had begun turning dry and more rain was needed further north in New South Wales and Queensland.

Many growers were eyeing the outlook with trepidation, as the Bureau continues to forecast drier than average conditions for the next three months.

Mark Merrett, of Kaniva, Victoria, said the season was tracking fairly well after a very wet June, with July helping to dry paddocks and warm sunny days encouraging crop growth during August.

“We will be, however looking for rain in the next three weeks,” he said. “If we miss out then, it will limit our yield significantly, but otherwise it’s looking really good.”

Jasmine Ryan (above), of Barry, NSW, said winter had been quite dry and unseasonably warm, with some crops more advanced than usual, and lower disease pressure.

Jake Hamilton, of Burradoo, near Condamine on the Western Downs, said the Bureau’s “dire seasonal outlook” released earlier in the year persuaded them to sow early, planting winter crops into marginal to fair moisture.

“Luckily for us they weren’t quite right, and we had a beautiful soaking 40-50mm in mid-May that allowed us to finish (sowing) in the good conditions,” he said. “Since then the tap has turned off and with unusually warm weather for July and early August, the early crops .. are well-advanced for what we’d expect at this stage.”

South Australia

Conditions vary across South Australia, with many crops progressing well after the wet start.

August was dry and warm, and rain will be crucial for finishing crops.

Simon Goss (above), of Brinkworth, said their crops were “on a knife’s edge”.

“The season could go either way,” he said. “We’re probably only a couple of good rains away from an above average year, but if we don’t get those rains, we mightn’t be looking so pretty.”

Robin Schaefer, of Bulla Burra, near Loxton in the SA Mallee, said the season was progressing nicely, although July was a lot drier and there were some quite severe frosts.

“For us spring is always really critical,” he said. “Some of the forecasts aren’t looking real promising, but others say .. it’s going to be okay.”

Western Australia

Growers reported crops were struggling in the north where lack of rain was costing yield potential, while central and southern areas were mostly looking good, and it was a mixed bag for the south east region.

The outlook for WA also is for drier than average conditions for the next three months.

Despite welcome rain in mid-August many crops in the Geraldton zone were struggling.

In the Kwinana zone, the south was looking very good, while lack of rain in the northern and central areas was costing yield potential.

Most crops in the Albany zone were in excellent condition and there were some good crops in the Esperance zone, but others were either too dry or too wet.

Simon Wallwork (above), of Corrigin, said crops were developing nicely thanks to above average rain.

“We’re hoping for minimal frost as crops approach flowering stage,” the GPA member said. “Canola is at 50 per cent flowering and enjoying the wetter than average conditions.”

Stuart Hocking, of Boxwood Hill, said they were expecting above average yields, and applying more in-crop nitrogen.

“Canola is in full flower and we’re pretty excited about where things are headed,” he said.


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