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Southern rains point to strong Aussie grain crop

Primary Industries

FAVOURABLE seasonal conditions and above average winter rainfall has South Australia on track to record its third highest grain harvest.

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Released today, the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecast for South Australia’s 2016–17 winter crop production is 8 million tonnes, 12 per cent above the five-year average.

The 2016–17 production forecast is 12 per cent higher than the 7.2 million tonnes harvested in the state last season but well short of the record crop of 10.34 million tonnes reaped in 2010-11.

However, the discovery of Russian wheat aphid in the state this season could lead to crop losses of up to 75 per cent in some areas if untreated.

Russian wheat aphid was identified for the first time in Australia in the Tarlee area of South Australia in mid-May. It is now widespread through the eastern part of the state and into western Victoria.

Some crops have been sprayed and have recovered rapidly with no re-infestation.

Grain Producers SA CEO Darren Arney said it was too early to tell what effect the aphid outbreak would have.

“It’s been identified but because the weather’s been cool they haven’t been active,” he said.

“They become active when the weather warms up and that’s when we’ll know if we’ve got a problem or not.”

Arney said good early spring rainfall across the state since the report was compiled would also help.

However, he said areas such as the Lower South East, Lower Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and parts of Yorke Peninsula were becoming too wet, which could lead to waterlogged soil and reduced yields.

Other areas such as the Upper South East, which has been dogged by several seasons of low rainfall, were on track to record an above average crop for the first time in a number of years.

“Overall it’s looking very good and better than where we were at this time last year and we went on to produce 7.2 million tonnes,” he said.

“Grain prices have come back significantly – by 25 to 30 per cent – on last harvest so even though the production is up, the gross income could be down for some farmers.”

However, Arney said high-value pulse crops such as lentils, peas and fava beans were being planted in greater numbers and were also enjoying a good season.

In South Australia, the total area planted to winter crops is estimated to have risen by 2.6 per cent to 3.7 million hectares this year.

Wheat production in 2016-17 is forecast to rise by 14 per cent to 5 million tonnes, reflecting a 5 per cent increase in the area planted and an 8.8 per cent rise in the yield.

Barley production is forecast to decline by 1.6 per cent to 1.9 million tonnes, reflecting a 3.7 per cent decline in the area planted offset by a 2.1 per cent rise in the yield.

Canola production is forecast to rise by 18 per cent to 350,000 tonnes, reflecting a rise of 2.2 per cent in the area planted and a 16 per cent increase in the yield.

National winter crop production in 2016–17 is estimated to be 46.1 million tonnes, 13 per cent above the five-year average and up 16 per cent (or 6.5 million tonnes) on 2015–16.

For the first time since 2007–08 winter crop production is forecast to rise across all Australian states.

Harvest in South Australia is expected to begin in mid-October and be completed by the end of the year depending on spring temperatures and soil types.

The next ABARES crop report will be released on December 6. 

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