Crops feel pinch as clear skies continue

Crops feel pinch as clear skies continue

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Hopes of an average harvest have been dashed in many of SA's agricultural regions, with crops showing the effects of below-average rainfall and turning "brown" in some areas.

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Hopes of an average harvest have been dashed in many of SA's agricultural regions, with crops showing the effects of below-average rainfall and turning "brown" in some areas.

Cleve Rural Traders agronomist Sarah Meyer said while the season started well in the district, with rain falling soon after seeding, crops in the region were now suffering from a drier second half of the year.

"We were getting 10 millimetres to 15mm every two weeks since the beginning of May, so there was potential, and then it just stopped raining in July," she said.

She said the average annual rainfall for the area was about 350mm, with many croppers having only received 100-120mm so far this year.

Coupled with a dry year in 2018, Ms Meyer said there was no soil moisture at depth, and crops were browning.

"Every crop would be struggling, about 40 per cent of the district is showing that browning, especially barley," she said.

If we don't see a decent rain for our grain crops we'll be struggling to see any sort of average yields. - NEVILLE LOFFLER

"There isn't a green barley paddock around anymore - they're still filling, but they're brown," she said.

In the Riverland, Elders agronomist Brian Lynch, Loxton, said the majority of the region was experiencing its second consecutive year of decile one rainfall.

"There was almost no stored soil moisture in the summertime," he said.

He said crops were variable in appearance, but all were "struggling".

"You can see the difference with the paddocks that were legumes last year that have been sown to cereals, they're doing better."

The biggest single rainfall event in Loxton was 15mm in mid-June, and Mr Lynch said while crops were starting to tip, a finishing rain would help them to "hold a little more grain".

"There will be paddocks that I don't think people will put a header into, and then there are other paddocks that are surprisingly good, I think yields will all fall in that range of 0.3 tonnes (a hectare) to 0.8t," he said.

"Last year, yields were 0.6t-0.9t/ha and this year will definitely be less."

Mr Lynch said frost damage had also been a problem this year, with all crops having experienced at least a few significant frost events.

In the Mid North, Landmark Pfitzner and Kleinig agronomist Michael Zerner, Eudunda, said croppers were "hanging on".

"Our last half substantial rain was at the start of August, and now basically all we've had is 5mm a couple of weeks ago," he said.

"A lot of crops have tipped off a bit recently, especially oats, as a result of moisture stress, wind, and frost, they're hanging in there, but there's still a long way to go to fill grain."

Mr Zerner said a finishing rain was need to take crops through to harvest time, with many croppers already looking to cut for hay.

"The decision is happening already, east of town, crops aren't looking as good, if they've got biomass, farmers are looking at cutting, other than that they're looking at turning livestock in," he said.

"With frost events around the place, there will be a bit more hay being cut shortly."

THIRSTY CROPS REQUIRE FINISHING RAIN

Eudunda mixed farmer Neville Loffler has received about a third of his average annual rainfall so far in 2019, and said while small falls had sustained his crops, a decent rain was required to finish them.

Mr Loffler crops about 350 hectares of wheat, barley, oaten hay and peas, and said the crops were "feeling the pinch".

"If we don't see a decent rain for our grain crops we'll be struggling to see any sort of average yields," he said.

He said that the oaten hay in particular had "taken a hit" by the higher temperatures at the weekend, and, coupled with a lack of soil moisture, had caused many leaves to yellow and wilt.

"Usually you can get away with (a lack of soil moisture) it if the heads are out of the plant, but they're not, and they might not even push out at all," he said.

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