With the 2020-21 national winter crop harvest coming in as the second biggest on record at 55.2 million tonnes, all eyes are turning to an improved Summer harvest
But prior to evaluating the fortune of the Summer harvest, lets bask in the glorious 2021-21 winter harvest that reinstalled enormous confidence in growers ability to meet and surpass their financial commitments and stabilise their farm businesses like never before.
It is expected that more than a third of growers will riding in a new Ute in 2021, and updating on-farm storage and upgrading farm inventory on a scale not seen for over ten years.
This is all off the back of a winter crop production that increased by 89% over last year, with NSW and QLD growers getting back some vital lost production from previous seasons to help the Harvest tally reach 55.2 million tonnes.
Growers in NSW in particular brought in yields that continuing to exceed all expectations as the harvest progressed, and in doing so smashed the shackles of bad fortune that has dogged them for the past two seasons.
Looking across all states it shows wheatproduction increased by 120% over last year to reach a 33.3 million tonnes haul.
While the national barley crop showed an increased harvest up by 45% to 13.1 million tonnes.
And across the nation the improvement for canola production increased by 74% to 4.1 million tonnes.
New South Wales
While NSW growers were determined to throw off the shackles of two poor winter crop harvests in a row, no-one could have predicted the bounce they would make.
The rise was to an all-time record harvest high of 18.7 million tonnes in 2020–21. A record result for NSW and the all-time high state-by-state harvest ever recorded.
This is a blistering 88% above the NSW 10-year average to 2019–20.
Wheat and barley yields defied all initial forecasts as harvest progressed, particularly in central and north western growing regions.
Record high winter crop yields were normal in most regions. In those rare regions that fell below average it places them in marginal cropping country moving forward.
The overall area planted to winter crops in NSW was just over 6.03 million/ha, around 14% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
This was the biggest planting since season 2010-11 when growers seeded down just over 6.1 million/ha and harvest production reached 14.7 million tonnes.
When you compare plantings in the previous record year of 2016-17 of just over 6.06 million/ha with a resultant harvest of 15.5 million tonnes, it was the extraordinary good yields that gained the all-time record for season 2020-21.
Wheat was a major player in the 2020-21 recordproduction. It sat on a record high harvest of 13.1 million tonnes.
The average wheat yield was also at a record high 3.45 tonnes/ha, a neck breaking 72% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The area growers planted to wheat in NSW showed plenty of confidence in the season as they seeded down 3.8 million/ha, double the area planted in 2019–20.
Barleyalso played its part instacking the deck for NSW growers as production reached a record high 3.2 million tonnes in 2020–21, 95% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The average barley yield came off the paddock at 3.4 tonnes/ha, 66% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
Growers showed a lot of faith in barley prospects and pushed towards a million hectares planting, just falling short at 950,000 hectares. A big jump of over 60% on the 580,000 hectares planted last year.
Canolaproduction made a comeback in NSW with a harvest of around 1.1 million tonnes in 2020–21.
The average yield for canola was at a record high at 1.95 tonnes/ha, 47% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The area planted to canola of 550,000 hectares was more than double the 250,000 hectares that was sown down in 2019–20.
WA Growers appeared to proceed through the season with some apprehension. For many, not everything seemed just right.
Even so growers were prepared to plant down 8.3 million/ha, the third highest planting on record for WA.
And while Winter cropproduction in WA reached 16.8 million tonnes in 2020–21 and sat at the third best harvest in the past ten seasons, many were shocked to find they played second fiddle for NSW.
This is not a position WA growers would expect as you have to go back to season 2010-11 to find when NSW growers produced more than WA.
In the 2010-11 season the harvest for WA failed as just 8 million tonnes were taken off the paddock, while NSW growers benefitted from an El Nina weather pattern that gave them a 14.7 million tonnes haul.
However, the winter harvest for WA in the 2020-21 season cannot be seen as anything other than a success. It is 18% higher than the 10-year average to 2019–20.
And the trepidation experienced throughout the season for many growers ended up being quelled by favourable rainfall events and below average spring temperatures resulted in good yields across many growing districts.
Wheatturned out to be a nice earner for growers with the harvest production springing up 64% over last year to reach 9.5 million tonnes in 2020–21.
The increase has been put down to near perfect conditions when it mattered at pod filling time to result in a 55% increase in the average yield.
The area planted to wheat did rise slightly on last year to 6% to 4.75 million/ha.
Barley proved to be solid for WA growers with a nice littleincrease of 14% to bring production up to 4.4 million tonnes, once again driven by a 25% increase in the average yield.
This was a good result as the area planted to barley was down by 9% to 1.6 million/ha. At the time of planting growers did see more value in wheat, at the expense of barley in some regions.
Growers estimated some real gains would come from Canola and as a result of enthusiastic planting spiralled the crop into a 43% increase in product to 1.65 million tonnes in 2020–21
This result for canola is 15% above the 10-year average to 2019–20, and reflects a 19% increase in average yield. and a 21% increase in planted area.
The area planted to canola was 21% up on last year and basically returned to around the 10-year average to 2019–20 of 1.2 million/ha of ground sown.
The winter crop harvest in VIC is the highest on record, increasing by 27% in 2020–21 to 9.548 million tonnes.
This result just slightly gazumps the 9,511 million tonnes haul from the magical 2016-17 season where yields reached obese proportions from a 3.2 million/ha planting.
Growers were always set for a big result in the 2020-21 season and put 3.5 million/ha under seed to capture results from very favourable planting conditions in autumn.
Wheat paid back its follows with a32% production increase over last year, to 4.8 million tonnes, the highest on record for VIC.
The area planted to wheat increased by 10% to 1.6 million/ha, and relates to 5% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
Just perfect growing conditions bumped up the average yield to around 3 tonnes/ha, the second highest yield result on record for wheat in VIC.
Barleygrowers stayed solid and as a result production increased 11% to 2.8 million tonnes, the second highest on record.
The average yield increased by 5% to 3.2 tonnes/ha, the second highest on record.
While the area planted to barley was no real impost and only up slightly by 6% to 870,000ha.
Canola growers just couldn’t be pumped with any more adrenalin and pushedproduction into record high territory of 950,000 tonnes, a 46% increase from 2019–20.
The area planted to canola did take a faithful increase of 17% to 450,000 hectares.
The average yield for canola also reached a record high of 2.11 tonnes/ha, a 25% increase from 2019–20 and 43% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
Seasonal conditions in SA had some growers on edge as it was variable during the 2020-21 winter crop season but in the end rainfall was sufficient and timely in most key cropping regions.
At the end of the game, winter cropproduction in SA showed a healthy increased of 39% in 2020–21 to reveal a healthy 8.4 million tonnes harvest.
This result reflected a significant improvement from the low yields of 2019–20.
And while less wheat was produced than expected, this was offset by higher than expected barley production.
Wheatproduction in SA increased by 50% in 2020–21 to 4.8 million tonnes.
This is a good result from the area planted being only up by 6%, it was the average yield increase of 41% from the low yields achieved in 2019–20 that orchestrated this good result.
Barleyproduction also increased by 30% to 2.4 million tonnes, driven by an estimated 27% increase in the average yield.
While canola had strong grower support andincreased by 25% in 2020–21 to 375,000 tonnes, 10% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
Behind this increase in production was a hefty 22% increase in the average yield, while the planted area only played a 2% increase in the result.
Winter cropproduction results for QLD growers in 2020–21 will come in around 1.67 million tonnes, 4% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
This is a comeback result, because if you add the past two winter crop season together, they don’t even match the 2020-21 harvest.
Growers ploughed in around 1.16 million/ha of ground. A significant increase relative to the previous two years when 725,000 and 657,000 hectares were planted, with both seasons heavily affected by drought.
Wheatproduction made a surge in 2020-21 to around 1.1 million tonnes, just 4% below the 10-year average to 2019–20. The area planted to wheat was 750,000 hectares.
Barley was seen as possible redemption with many growers getting onboard the last train to seeproduction in 2020–21 to be been around 240,000 tonnes, 13% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
A slight easing of steam was revealed in the average yield of 1.78 tonnes/ha, this is 9% below the long-term average.
The area planted to barley came in at 135,000 hectares, 31% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
That most favoured crop for QLD growers, Chickpea, reached aproduction level in 2020-21 of 275,000 tonnes, a result that is 21% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The same scenario filtered through to the average yield for chickpea to be 5% below the 10-year average to 2019-20.
While the area planted to chickpea was 11% below the 10-year average to 2019-20.
The 2020-21 summer crop season
The cropping area estimated to be planted to summer crops is currently 1.04 million hectares, and this is significant because at that level its nearly three times larger than what turned out to be a heavily drought-affected 2019–20 season.
At this stage of proceedings yield prospects are expected to benefit from favourable rainfall outlook and mild temperatures forecast for autumn.
If evrything comes together as expected, Summer crop production should come in around 3.3 million tonnes in 2020–21.
And while a result on this scale would be around 13% below the 10-year average to 2019–20 it would be comparable to the area planted.
Growers in New South Wales have been busy with a late winter crop and counting their subsequent cash windfalls, this has seen current plantings below average.
While Queensland growers are becoming conservatives following a scatty winter season and a poor start to ground conditions for the summer crop in some areas of Queensland.
The area planted to grain sorghumis estimated to have increased by 258% in 2020–21 to 511,000 hectares. Production is forecast to increase by 409% to 1.5 million tonnes.
The area planted to cottonis estimated to have risen by 395% in 2020–21 to 295,000 hectares, driven by improved soil moisture and greater supply of irrigation water in most cotton-growing regions.
However, yields are forecast to be below average due to a higher than average share of dryland cotton in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. Dryland cotton yields less than irrigated cotton.
New South Wales
Seasonal conditions in NSW for the summer crop in 2020–21 have been favourable.
December rainfall was average to very much above average across north east New South Wales, and average for most other summer cropping areas.
Temperatures were average to below average during December in almost all summer cropping regions in New South Wales, providing mild conditions for summer crops.
Rainfall in January was average to above average across much of the state, and very much above average in the Riverina.
It was the highest January rainfall in New South Wales since 2016.
According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (March to May), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 4 February 2020, there is a 60 to 70% chance of exceeding median rainfall in most summer cropping regions in New South Wales.
And while the area planted to summer crops in New South Wales increased significantly over the previous year in 2020–21 to 433,000 hectares, it is still 20% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
It was a matter of you can’t have your cake and eat it as well. As the area planted to summer crops was constrained by a lack of fallow land due to the excellent winter cropping season.
This was particularly prevalent in northern New South Wales, and was also combined with mixed seasonal conditions during the planting window.
Summer crop production in NSW is forecast to reach 1.7 million tonnes in 2020–21, nearly six times what was produced in 2019–20 but still 16% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The area planted to grain sorghumis forecast to increase to around 130,000 hectares, 15% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
This reflects the low availability of fallow land and low levels of upper layer soil moisture in the main planting window.
December and early January rainfall was above to very much above average in northern New South Wales, which is expected to boost average yields.
However, this rainfall constrained the ability to plant a late crop because it was too wet.
Yields are forecast to be above average at around 3.95 tonnes/ha and result in grain sorghum production of around 514,000 tonnes, the biggest crop since 2015–16 if forecasts come to fruition.
The area planted to cottonis estimated to have increased by a mind boggling 327% in 2020–21 to 180,000 hectares, but surprisingly still 28% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The estimated increase in planted area is driven by increased availability of water in public dams and storages on-farm.
However, dam storage levels remain low in some regions resulting in below average planted area overall.
The area planted to dryland cotton is estimated to have risen significantly in northern New South Wales and it is expected favourable summer rainfall will boost production.
The area planted to riceis estimated to have increased to around 45,000 hectares in 2020–21, reflecting an increase in the availability of irrigation water in rice growing regions.
The lack of rainfall throughout winter and spring in Queensland’s summer cropping regions provided little subsoil moisture for summer crops, which greatly reduced spring planting.
Heavy rainfall in late December and January facilitated delayed summer crop planting, especially in the western Darling Downs and central Queensland.
However, the rain generally arrived too late to boost the yield prospects of earlier sown crops, which were planted mostly in the inner Darling Downs.
The planting window has closed in southern Queensland but remains open until around mid-February in central Queensland where more summer crops are likely to be planted.
Harvesting of earlier sown summer crops has begun in parts of southern Queensland. Yields for these crops are expected to be below average.
The latest three-month rainfall outlook (March to May), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 4 February 2021, indicates summer rainfall is likely to be above average in Queensland.
Above average summer rainfall is expected to boost the yields of later sown dryland crops.
The area planted to summer cropsin Queensland in 2020–21 is estimated to be 592,000 hectares, 4% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
This planted area is more than twice the planted area in the drought affected season in 2019–20. There is a significant increase in area planted to grain sorghum and cotton.
Summer crop production is forecast to be around 1.5 million tonnes in 2020–21, 10% below the 10-year average to 2019–20 of 1.7 million tonnes.
The area planted to grain sorghumin 2020–21 was constrained by below average rainfall throughout spring.
Most plantings of grain sorghum occurred in the western Downs and central Queensland following rainfall in late December and January.
The area planted to grain sorghum in 2020–21 is forecast to be around 380,000 hectares, 3% above the 10-year average to 2019–20.
Grain sorghum yields are forecast to be slightly below average because of lower yields achieved by crops sown in spring. Production is forecast to be around 1 million tonnes in 2020–21.
The area planted to cottonis estimated to have increased significantly in 2020–21 to 115,000 hectares but remains 21% below the 10-year average to 2019–20.
The area planted to irrigated cotton is estimated to have increased because of recharges to on-farm water storages in southern cropping regions.
However, water storage levels remain low in some regions. Area planted to dryland cotton is estimated to have risen significantly due to much improved seasonal conditions.