Heat prompts farmers to get harvest into gear

Heat prompts farmers to get harvest into gear

Cropping
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WITH last weekend's weather not as extreme as forecast across some regions, and mild weather since, many farmers have breathed a sigh of relief for their mature crops.

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IN THE BIN: Port Germein cropper Barry Mudge inspecting the Jumbo 2 lentils he started harvesting on Thursday last week, with the majority of the 200 hectares off before forecasted hot winds on Saturday.

IN THE BIN: Port Germein cropper Barry Mudge inspecting the Jumbo 2 lentils he started harvesting on Thursday last week, with the majority of the 200 hectares off before forecasted hot winds on Saturday.

WITH last weekend's weather not as extreme as forecast across some regions, and mild weather since, many farmers have breathed a sigh of relief for their mature crops.

Temperatures did reach the high 30s and into the 40s in some parts of the state, which encouraged some croppers to tentatively start harvest, particularly in the Upper North and northern Eyre Peninsula.

The Upper North region is traditionally an early district, but Port Germein cropper Barry Mudge said the hot, windy forecast made him "nervous", so he started harvest on 200 hectares of desiccated Jumbo 2 lentils on Thursday last week.

"We still lost some, but we had 90 per cent of the crop off before the wind came," he said.

Mr Mudge said the lentils averaged about 1 tonne/ha, with poor weed control blamed for a yield decrease.

"In 2016, lentils averaged 3t/ha on that block," he said.

"We put out post-emergent herbicide Brodal, but it didn't control the capeweed as much as we would like."

If we waited on weed emergence after the break, we may not have reapt lentils at all. - BARRY MUDGE

But with only 160 millimetres of growing season rainfall and "no spring for the past two years", Mr Mudge was still pleased with the crop.

"I feel it is due to early sowing (which often starts dry from about April 20), but it can make weed control a bit more problematic," he said.

"But, if we waited on weed emergence after the break, we may not have reapt lentils at all. Good May rains gave us good coverage for the year."

Mr Mudge planned to start harvesting barley at the end of this week, while wheat crops were a week away. He also grows vetch and beans.

On his northern country, crown rot had decimated some cereals, particularly on heavier soils, which Mr Mudge blamed the "crook spring" and lack of tillage.

"It's such a difficult thing to control in our environment because we just don't get enough breaking down of the crowns of the grasses and it just carries over," he said.

"We are reviewing our rotation, but we are limited in what grows well here, so it might be something that needs further research."

Saturday ended up being horrific, with it getting up to 43 degrees (Celcius) and wind gusts up to 75 kilometres an hour. - MALCOLM STOTT

WCT Rural Ceduna branch manager Malcolm Stott said some early-sown barley had been harvested on northern EP.

"Saturday ended up being horrific, with it getting up to 43 degrees (Celcius) and wind gusts up to 75 kilometres an hour," he said.

"Most crops aren't quite ripe yet, so thankfully it didn't do too much damage."

Mr Stott said harvest would start in earnest in mid-October, with yields expected to be below-average.

"Some farms only had 90 millimetres to 100mm of rain for the year," he said.

"You can't grow crops here on that amount of rain, particularly when most of it fell in April/May."

Crop Smart agronomist Daniel Bowey, Lock, said harvest in his district was also a fortnight away, with results expected to be patchy.

"We really didn't have a lot of big rain events during the growing season, so crops were really struggling here just prior to a 30-60mm rain in mid-September," he said.

"That rain really salvaged yields and revived a bit of confidence, but then severe frosts followed, so there has been a bit of crop cut for hay."

Mr Bowey said 40-degree temperatures at the weekend sped up crop ripening.

"It has been one of those years that the hits kept on coming," he said.

"There are still some pretty good crops around Lock, but there are some that may amount to nothing and pockets as you head north where the drought has been a little more severe."

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The Lower EP is in stark contrast to its northern counterparts, with above-average yields expected.

Cummins agronomist Mick Broad said the 25-70mm of rain that fell across the district a few weeks ago had shored-up the season on the "bottom end".

"The good start in early May and 300mm-plus for the growing season has resulted in some unbelievable crops around Cummins," he said.

Windrowing of canola was expected to start in mid-October, while some early-sown barley would be ready by the first week of November.

Another positive region was southern Yorke Peninsula, where harvest was expected to at least be average, while the north may be slightly more patchy.

Growers Supplies agronomist James Chard, Warooka, said cooler weather in the south had kept crops tracking along nicely.

"There was a hot spell through the Minlaton region about a fortnight ago, which knocked a few flowers about, but that didn't hit the south," he said.

Mr Chard also covers the Long Plains region, where a lot of crops, mainly lentils, wheat and barley, had been cut for hay due to severe frosts and a lack of moisture.

He expected harvest to be below-average when it started in 2-3 weeks, while Yorkes was still 4-5 weeks away.

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