Drought hits hard: Crop yields at six-year low
OUR farmers are staring down a bleak summer on the back of a winter season that failed to deliver.
A National Crop Update report which found grains production was down to its lowest level in six years came as no surprise for Jondaryan farmer Mac Baartz.
The Rural Bank-commissioned report said barley and wheat yields were down by 24 per cent and 14%, respectively.
"I'd say that's a conservative figure, to be honest," Mr Baartz said.
"We didn't get a planting rain at what felt like the right time, and we got mixed results with the crops we were able to establish."
Mr Baartz yesterday finished harvesting his 138 hectare wheat crop, just 40% of what he would have liked to have grown during the winter.
"The biggest fall we had in the growing season was about 20mm, but that was almost too late," he said.
"Having said that, the crop did remarkably well."
Mr Baartz now has 600ha sitting idle, waiting for enough rain in the coming weeks to lift soil moistures so he can turn his lacklustre winter season around with his sorghum crop this summer.
"We need the rain before the end of December, or we'll be in a very tight corner," he said.
Rural Bank relationships manager for Queensland Angus Muggleton said despite a good start to the cropping season, cereal crop yield forecasts had dropped below the five-year average.
"The current forecast for wheat is around 1.1 million tonnes, which would be Queensland's smallest crop since 2008," he said.
"Most crops will be harvested, but the majority of producers aren't expecting anything outstanding this year, despite initial good planting rain."
Cecil Plains farmer Graham Clapham seized the chance in March to plant his crop, which he described as "average".
"For everything we have put into this crop, I would have expected it to be up around the six tonnes a hectare mark," Mr Clapham said.
"Instead, we're getting about 4.5 tonnes a hectare.
"The last time it was this dry and we were getting this yield, it was about 2006."
Mr Baartz said the unpredictable weather had dealt producers another blow, going from extreme heat to frosts within a week.
"One week it's extremely cold and the next it's incredibly hot, so the crops don't know if they're Arthur or Martha," he said.
Incitec Pivot technical agronomist Bede O'Mara said producers considering a summer crop - many of whom have entered into grains contracts - should be mindful of the impact of the hot weather on soil fertilisers.
National crop update report snapshot
- Wheat yields forecast to fall by 14%, barley by 24%, and canola by 9%
- That puts them below the five-year average
- Predicting Queensland's smallest crop since 2008
- Nationally, significant increase in crops being exported to China, with total export value increasing from $1.1b in 2012-13, to $1.8b in 2013-14
- Chinese demand for Australian sorghum has risen, providing farmers who are able to plant a decent crop to export and profit from the overseas market