Agronomists optimistic but still too early

Agronomists optimistic but it's early days

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WELL-TIMED opening rains in May across most of South Australia have set the scene for what could be the state's biggest grain harvest since the 2016-17 season.

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POTENTIAL THERE: Yorke Peninsula agronomist Stefan Schmitt, Ag Consulting Co, said there was a lot of crop potential in the area.

POTENTIAL THERE: Yorke Peninsula agronomist Stefan Schmitt, Ag Consulting Co, said there was a lot of crop potential in the area.

WELL-TIMED opening rains in May across most of SA have set the scene for what could be the state's biggest grain harvest since the 2016-17 season.

In its first estimate for 2019-20, PIRSA predicts a haul of 7.95 million tonnes across 3.81m hectares - a return to near-average figures of area sown.

Agronomists are collectively optimistic about early season grain estimates, yet remained cautious with weather across the next month pivotal.

Depleting subsoil moisture in many districts needs good top-up rain to support crop growth.

"There is a lot of potential across most of the region," Yorke Peninsula agronomist Stefan Schmitt, Ag Consulting Co, said.

"The crops are thick and lush at the moment, but are starting to look for moisture."

Carr's Seeds agronomist Denis Pedler said while 250 millimetres of rain had been recorded across the lower Eyre Peninsula since May, only 35mm had fallen this month, as opposed to 130mm in August last year.

"So while the crops are more advanced due to a lot of dry sowing, we are behind in subsoil moisture," he said.

Vickery Bros agronomist Rebecca Stewart, Coleraine, Vic, said a lot of croppers in the Lower South East of SA had sown extra paddocks, both to renovate and to grow extra feed.

"It has been nice and dry throughout a lot of the district, allowing farmers to get on and do some good weed control," she said.

"We had a perfect start and, so far, a magnificent season."

The news is less bright in eastern EP, the northern part of the Upper North and parts of the northern Murray Mallee, which all missed rain in mid-August, according to PIRSA.

Landmark Cleve agronomist Martin Lovegrove said a solid season had turned to dust there, with below-average rain and frost decimating crops. He said farmers in the Arno Bay, Cleve and Cowell areas have begun chemical fallowing in preparation for 2020.

The district had received 75-130mm of rain this year, significantly less than 2018 when it was in a "terrible" drought, he said.

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