Grain harvest splits the East and West down the middle on a price point

LaNina rain events play games with eastern state growers while WA growers stockpile a record result for winter season 2021-22 and near record prices

While WA growers grow richer by the minute hauling in a record harvest in ideal conditions it is with great precipitation anxiety that eastern state growers look for a break between wild storm events

LaNina plays havoc with the sleep of growers and contractors in the Eastern states trying to pick a window to harvest their 2021-22 winter crop, while WA growers are halfway through an all-time record harvest for their state.

Even with fierce storms pounding paddocks across New south Wales and Queensland industry pundits are still bullish about an all-time national harvest record result estimated at 58.4 million tonnes for the winter crop season.

However, if that record is achieved on the volume level, it is with some disappointment that grain quality will be downgraded in the eastern states at least, due to the incessant La Nina rain events.

Grain buyers will be instead rushing to have morning tea with WA growers to purchase their prime hard grain as they harvest an expected record of 21.2 million tonnes in almost perfect conditions.

The latest estimates for the winter crop production places it at 5% more than last year, and that’s enough to haul in a new record of 58.4 million tonnes. If achieved, this result would break the previous all-time high that was set in season 2016-17 at 56.7 tonnes.

And while production is expected to be a record high in Western Australia and the second highest on record in New South Wales and Queensland, the quality difference will be hard and medium to soft respectively.

There was simply too much rain in the eastern states at the end of the season and this will keep growers in those states an arm’s length away from one of the all-time greatest windfall prices on record for hard grain.

Most growers across the country put their faith into wheat and as a result production is forecast to reach a record of 34.4 million tonnes in 2021–22, 3% higher than the previous record set in 2020–21.

Barley also had its devoted followers and production is forecast to increase marginally to reach the second highest on record of 13.3 million tonnes, 2% below the previous record set in 2016–17.

Canola proved to be an irresistible force for many new converts and as a result production is forecast to reach a new record of 5.7 million tonnes, 27% above the previous record set in 2020–21.

Western Australia

Winter crop production in WA is looking set to reach a record 21.2 million tonnes in 2021–22, and if achieved places the combined harvest at 39% above the 10-year average.

Growers had to work for the result with the area planted to wheat up by 3% to 4.9 million/ha, while Canola drew an increased planting of 35% over last year. Barley was steady with 1.6 million/ha planted.

From these plantings, record high winter crop yields are expected to result from ideal seasonal conditions in most regions.

Wheat is expected to provide a 23% surge with yields at 2.39 tonnes/ha to form a harvest of 11.7 million tonnes.

While barley is expected to improve from mainly good yields of 3.25 tonnes/ha to reveal an 18% increase for a harvest of 5.2 million tonnes.

Canola paid back its backers with yields of 1.77 tonnes/ha that is expected to tally 2.75 million tonnes, an increase of 67% over last year.

Lupins played a small part in the new Ute that most growers in WA will buy from the harvest with yields averaging 1.71 tonnes/ha able to amass 600,000 tonnes for an increase of 9% over last year.

See more about the prices WA growers are expected to receive on this link.

New South Wales

Growers in NSW were on a good thing all through the season with above to very much above average rainfall throughout all the main cropping regions.

Then early spring conditions were ideal with mild temperatures, above average September rainfall and minimal frost events all contributing to above to very much above average yield potential.

However, it all turned very sour as unwanted late November rainfall resulted in harvest delays and quality downgrades as damage to crops became evident.

In addition, ready for harvest crops were flooded in the central west and northern region of NSW and this is likely to result in total crop loss for some growers along river systems and will impact the total tonnage expected.

Prior to these unnecessary rain events the winter crop production in NSW was estimated at 17.8 million tonnes, 72% above the 10-year average and the second highest on record. If achieved it would be a 6% fall on the all-time record from last year, season 2020-21.

Growers of wheat and barley showed some caution when compared with plantings from last year with a decrease by 3 and 5% respectively to 3.7 million/ha and 900,000ha.

Canola drew some more enthusiastic devotees with 800,000ha sown down for a 29% increase in ground.

From this enthusiastic rumbling the initial results expected included yields of 3.3 and 3.2 tonnes/ha for wheat and barley respectively for a harvest of 12.2 and 2.8 million tonnes.

Significantly above average winter crop yields, and second only to the record 2020–21 season. However, prevailing wet conditions could put a dent into these results.

Canola production is expected to show up as a 15% increase over last year from yields of 2.0 tonnes/ha and give growers 1.6 million tonnes to sell.

Victoria

Conditions could have been better for Vic growers as they witnessed a slow start without rain in the winter cropping season and weak rainfall events during the season as well.

Crops became stressed and this reduced yield potential in many northern cropping regions with sandy soils.

Growers had a glimmer of hope when rainfall from September to October 2021 was average to above average. This assisted grain filling and helped to boost yield potential of most crops during spring.

Yield prospects are above average in most cropping regions, supported by timely and sufficient rainfall over spring.

However state-wide average yields are expected to be less than the record levels reached in 2020–21, primarily due to the lower yields forecast for the Mallee region compared to the high levels last year.

Although crop harvest in Victoria is still ongoing, there are less concerns about delays to harvest and downgrades to grain quality caused by heavy rainfall in Victorian cropping regions relative to other eastern states.

Overall, yields are still forecast to be higher than the 10-year average due to the generally favourable growing conditions over spring.

As a result, winter crop production in Vic is forecast to fall by 14% in 2021–22 to 8.4 million tonnes due to lower yields than the record levels reached in 2020–21.

For most growers in Vic it was steady as it goes with wheat, barley and canola all sharing similar enthusiasm from last year with plantings respectively at 1.5 million/ha wheat, 850,000ha barley and 450,000ha for canola.

With the up and down weather conditions it was a battle to see yields exceed 2.66 tonnes/ha for wheat while barley did show a break at a yield of 2.91 tonnes while canola struggled at 2.17 tonnes/ha.

For where it matters, at the front end of the combine harvester, wheat production is barely managing a harvest of 4.0 million tonnes, down 15% on last year.

Barley didn’t fare much better on a season-to-season comparison and is faltering with expectations of 2.4 million tonnes, down 11% on last year. While canola didn’t live up to early expectations and is struggling to reach 1.0 million tonnes, down 9% on last year.

South Australia

Growers in SA managed to hang on throughout a topsy turvey season with analysts tallying the SA winter crop production at just over 8.0 million tonnes, a fall of 4% when compared to last year.

Grower planting were pretty much in line with last year, with wheat planted across 2.0 million/ha, while barley found a host across 850,000ha, and canola across 230,000ha.

Most cropping regions in SA struggled from the very start and recorded below average rainfall in September, except for the Murraylands, where rainfall was mostly average.

Then things started to look up with sufficient rainfall and mild temperatures during October boosted yield potential of most crops, especially those that were later sown.

However, the improvement in growing conditions during October generally arrived too late to benefit crops in the upper parts of the Eyre Peninsula and the Yorke Peninsula that were adversely affected by dry conditions in early spring.

Harvesting of winter crops in SA began on the Eyre Peninsula in early October but by late October and throughout November heavy rainfall slowed the harvest progress in many parts of the state.

And further unwanted strong winds and hailstorms on the 28th of October and 6th of November also caused isolated crop losses in affected areas.

Growers have been watching yields closely as this is the only difference between the past two seasons with about the same plantings in the ground.

Wheat yields averaged 2.22 tonnes/ha for a harvest expected to settle around 4.6 million tonnes, down 4% on last year.

Barley yields averaged 2.65 tonnes/ha for a harvest of around 2.2 million tonnes, down 6% on last year. While canola was given every chance by growers and appears to have only managed 1.63 tonnes/ha for a 375,000 tonnes harvest, very much in line with last year.

Tasmania

Growers in TAS are starting to come onboard with more ground being set aside for planting grain and as a result the state will add around 130,000 tonnes to the national tally for winter season 2021-22.