AFTER the optimism spurred by excellent October rain, sorghum producers across northern Australia are anxiously monitoring the progress of a forecast rain event set to arrive late this week.
A run of hot and dry weather over the past months means sorghum crops planted on the October rain is now starting to struggle.
Models vary widely, with official Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts for just 10-20mm for key sorghum producing regions such as the Darling Downs and Liverpool Plains.
More experimental forecasts have up to 100mm on the horizon, although the rain is likely to be storm-driven and patchy.
New AgForce grains section president Brendan Taylor said while there had been early talk of a giant sorghum crop of up to 3 million tonnes, which would greatly ease the pressure on feed grain availability, unless weather conditions turned around soon that was unlikely.
“There has been a big plant, a lot of people went in on the back of the October rain, some of them potentially not with the fullest of soil moisture profiles, meaning they needed follow-up rain to keep the crop going,” Mr Taylor said.
“Since there we have not seen any significant rain apart from isolated storms and there are many crops that needed rain yesterday, hot weather with four consecutive days around 39 put crops to the sword.”
He said prices for feed grain delivered to the Darling Downs fell during the short winter crop harvest in the region to $400 a tonne bt had since spiked back to $430/t, reflecting uncertainty surrounding sorghum production.
Andrew Jurgs, commodity trader with Emerald Grain, Toowoomba, said all eyes would be on the heavens this Thursday and Friday.
“It is important not just for crop in the ground but for planting intentions.
“If we got some of the higher totals some are predicting we would see more acres go in, but if it is only 10-15mm it will only really be temporary relief.”
“A lot have planted on less than ideal moisture so they really want some in-crop rainfall.”
Mr Taylor said crop prospects could rapidly dissipate with an extended dry spell.
“Given the subsoil moisture, if it doesn’t rain in next month the wheels could really fall off.”
Mr Jurgs said at present he believed the talk of a large sorghum crop could not be supported.
“3m tonnes is a big ask, it would definitely be closer to two than three million at present, given we still haven’t really got a big plant in areas like Central Queensland or the Liverpool Plains.”
“Obviously the window is still well and truly open, but the later it gets the more people will look to shorter season crops such as mung beans, which are priced attractively enough that people are happy enough to plant them, especially as considerations about the season length start coming into it.”