AFTER a miserable start to the Australian harvest, more grain is now hitting the bin as headers in the southern and western states, where crop is much better, kick into gear.
Western Australia has been regarded as having the best crop prospects since the winter and with the grain now being harvested the forecasts appear to have been on the money.
Duncan Young, WAFarmers grains section president, said farmers in the north of the state’s grain production zone were enjoying the best of the season.
“It has been a really good year in the Geraldton port zone, right through places like Dalwallinu and Moora they are having an exceptional year, which is nice after they missed out last year,” Mr Young said.
He said crops in the south were generally average to slightly above average but heavy winter rain limited yield potential in some instances.
CBH numbers reflected Mr Young’s comments, with a whopping 5.7 million tonnes delivered into the business’s two northern port zones, Geraldton and Kwinana.
Overall, CBH has received over 7.2 million tonnes, virtually exactly half of what it expects to receive for the season.
Inclement weather has slowed receivals somewhat over the past week.
“Cool weather has been slowing progress in Albany and Esperance zones, however towards the end of the week receivals in all zones has ramped up,” said CBH general manager, operations, David Capper.
Victoria has been a surprise packet, with yields slightly better than visual appearances.
“In general, there have been a lot of reports of crops going that 10-15 per cent better than expected and quality has also exceeded expectations,” said Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group president Ross Johns.
He attributed the better than expected yields to a cool finish and some timely October rain.
However, unlike WA, it is far from a generally good season in Victoria.
Mr Johns said large tracts of the Mallee and northern Wimmera, especially those with heavier soil types, had struggled badly through the season.
“There are a lot of places that have struggled to find too much grain at all.”
He nominated the western and southern Wimmera as the pick of the bunch.
“Harvest has not really got going in those areas yet, it’s been a bit frustrating with cool weather not allowing moisture to come back and then skiffy showers, but the early results look very promising.”
He said the Western District, which normal performs well in drier than average seasons, remained an unknown due to late season frost.
“It was looking good but I have reports there were crops that have been frosted so we’ll have to wait until they start to see the extent of the damage.”
Brett Hosking, Grain Growers chairman and a farmer in northern Victoria, said in his area crops were generally around what was expected, but added it was varied.
“Some crops have gone OK and others have been quite poor, there is a lot of variability around.”
In South Australia, Landmark Minlaton agronomist Claire Tucker said crops on the Yorke Peninsula were generally average to slightly below, but said farmers were growing frustrated with constant hold-ups.
“Moisture has been high and there have been nuisance factor showers.”
She said crops in traditionally wetter areas in the middle of the peninsula had gone well, but drier areas nearer the coast had felt the impact of the dry.
“Barley in the middle has done up to 4 tonnes to the hectare, but on the coast that figure is 2t/ha.”
“With price where they are, however, even those with slightly lower yields are not going too badly.”
She noted some unexpected frost damage in barley and said people were concerned it could be a similar story in wheat when that started to come off.
Receivals into Viterra’s South Australian bulk handling network have kicked along to a tick under 2 million tonnes with the company reporting a big week in its western region.
Through southern NSW, Ian Trevethan, Corowa, said it had been a slow harvest, but added he expected it to wind up quickly once there were a few days of good harvesting weather.
“There is a good market for hay nearby and a lot of farmers decided to not take a risk on spring rain and cut grain crops for hay, so that means there are a lot less acres to get across.”
He said yields were reasonable, if slightly below average due to the dry in his immediate area, but added yields dropped off sharply to the north of the Murray River.
“Areas like Urana and Oaklands have not had as good a fortune as us,” he said.