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NSW crop production set to triple in size after sharp turnaround in rainfall

By NSW Rural reporters, Tuesday August 4, 2020 - 16:23 EST
ABC image
Eight months and a world of difference for this paddock in Nyngan, western NSW. The left image was taken in December 2019, the image on right of a wheat crop in August 2020. - ABC

Growers are gazing ahead to a glorious harvest if the season continues as it is, after a sharp turnaround in rainfall for New South Wales this year.



The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has forecast the area sown will almost double last year's crop, increasing to 5.9 million hectares.

Production is set to triple the 2019-2020 figure, rising to 12 million tonnes.

Central West farmers buoyant but frost is a risk

After three years of drought, between 300 mm and 600mm of rain was recorded in many parts of the Central West between February and July this year.

Farmers , with oats, wheat, barley and canola proving popular.



Parkes mayor and farmer, Ken Keith, said it was turning out to one of the best years since the late 1990s.

"Even if we didn't get any more rain, we'd still get a harvest because of how much we've had already."



Mr Keith said the rain and warmer-than-average daytime temperatures had seen crops develop two to three weeks ahead of schedule, which increased the risk of damage.

"There's the potential that heavy frosts in September could cause some damage to barley and canola crops in particular."

Crops in parts of the region grew at such a fast rate that putting livestock into them was sometimes difficult.

"I sowed four paddocks of grazing brassica early on in the season, thinking it was a good option," Mr Keith said.

"It's grown about a metre above the ground, and the sheep won't walk into it because it's so high!"

Hunter looking good after three tough years

This season has been like a walk in the park for Merriwa farmer Chris Kemp, after some of the toughest drought years in living memory on cropping farms in the Hunter.

"We had good soil profile moisture and rain and its probably been a perfect season for crops."

The increased plantings of wheat, barley, oats and canola are expected to put downward pressure on prices, but that too is not likely to worry farmers.

"Producers are going to have reasonable yields, so they're going to have tonnage around, and they will probably hang on and not take the bottom price." Chris Kemp concluded.

From dust to dollars on the Western Plains

In January, Western New South Wales was battered by frequent dust storms as years of extreme drought wore down the environment and exhausted residents.

But then in February, , with the country showing incredible resilience.

Crops were sown and many farmers planted earlier than normal. Coupled with less frosts than usual, the crops are well-developed across the district.

Now many farmers, including Nyngan's Rowan Cleaver, say this is one of the best seasons he has seen in his lifetime.

"We have wheat, barley and chickpeas. It looks fantastic. All the stuff that was sown early is fantastic. We've had little lots of 10mm and 15mm of rain regularly.

"It's just kept it pumping," he said.

Spring rain needed to bring Riverina harvest home





Across the Riverina the fields of green and gold are thriving with a lot of canola crops flowering and wheat and barley powering along.

For many the season kicked off with a full moisture profile for autumn sowing and steady rainfall throughout winter has some calling it the best season in years for the region.

But, typically a wet winter also brings with it a few disease issues, and some croppers are keeping a lookout for fungal diseases, like sclerotinia in canola and stripe rust in wheat, something many haven't had to deal with in recent years when it was drier.

Dan Fox, who farms at Marrar north of Wagga Wagga, said his wheat, barley, faba beans and vetch crops were tracking along well, but more rain was needed in spring.

"The season is very good, we have been fortunate to have very good rains and mild temperatures through winter," Mr Fox said.

"We haven't had as much rain as areas north of us has have had. I have a mate at Mendooran who has had over 25 inches (625 mm) for the year and we are only at about 300 mm for the year.

"So we are not as wet as some areas, but we are tracking about average or above average for the year, but the main portion of the rain has come in the growing season which has been very good," he said.

However, he would certainly some more rain in spring ahead of harvest.

"After the last few years you never say no to a good drop of rain, and while we are sitting very comfortably at the moment with a good soil moisture profile and the bucket is very full," he said.

"We do certainly need some rain in the money months come September and October.

Things looking up in the south east after terrible start

Parts of the state's south east has been suffering through intense drought, but 100-300 millimetres of rain fell across a wide area leading to minor flooding.

John Jefferys, a mixed farmer at Delegate, cut more than 50 per cent of his sheep flock before the rain came, but he is feeling more positive about the outlook now.

He has planted wheat and canola, partly to provide feed for his livestock.

He said the full soil moisture profile would help his fodder crops develop as the temperature started to increase.

"Considering we've had no rainfall until a few weeks ago, the crops have established well but haven't accumulated any dry matter."

"Usually we'll have ewes and lambs graze those paddocks in the start of April, not the start of the August, like they are now."

China trade issues weigh on barley price



Trade tensions with China earlier this year resulted in tariffs on Australian barley rising to 80 per cent, but Matthew Madden is confident his barley will find a place in domestic markets come harvest.

He has 1,600 hectares under wheat and barley and said this year is one of the biggest winter plantings the area has seen for some time.

"The stockpiles are quite low so generally speaking we would be feeding into southern Queensland, into the feedlot markets."

"All in all, I think the prices are going to be OK, and I think the yields will, in most cases, overcome the slightly lower prices.

With just 125.4 millimetres of rain, 2019 was one of their driest years on record for growers in the Moree district in northern NSW,

This year about 400 mm has fallen in the first six months.

"We are looking for rain as it starts to warm up a little bit," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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