Mallee crops hold on despite challenging year

Mallee crops hold on despite challenging year


Between damaging frosts and an ongoing lack of rain, Riverland and Mallee crops haven't had it easy this season, but some have managed to exceed expectations.


DESPITE recording one of the lowest rainfall tallies in the state, the season in the Riverland and Mallee will still be fruitful for local graingrowers, who lay in wait for crops to finish.

Elders Loxton senior agronomist Brian Lynch said there was a handful of guys "scratching around" at the moment, mainly desiccated field peas and some barley.

He thought harvest could start this weekend, but expectations weren't high.

"Most paddocks will get harvested, there just might be some patching out of the better soil types to get seed and then leaving the rest," he said.

"The late frost and then our sand hills got burnt off, so farmers will work out fairly quickly whether it's worth driving around."

Related reading:Heat prompts farmers to get harvest into gear

Mr Lynch said the season varied greatly.

"East of Loxton probably has the worst of it - there are still some guys that have yet to hit 70 millimetres of rain for the year, and they only had 100mm last year," he said.

"While further south towards Paruna, they've had up to 75mm more rain, but there has been a lot of frost about."

But many farmers had been surprised with how the crops have held on, he said.

"In previous droughts, some even wetter than this year, there has been many that haven't got the header out," he said.

"So the fact that most will harvest every crop sown, is tantamount to the change in farming practices."

He said better country, with the right rotation, could make up to 1.5 tonnes a hectare.

Tom Fielke started a test run on desiccated peas at his Bugle Hut property north of Loxton on Friday, but pulled up as pods were still a "bit green and leathery" and yields were not great.

It's is surprising what crops are out there, considering the lack of rain. - COREY GILGEN

He said the season was about a week later than last year, but crops weren't "looking too bad".

"We have had 90mm for the year - 5mm less and things may have looked quite a bit different," he said.

"We have had a favourable end of September and October, with mild weather - you can get away with not having much rain if you have that cooler weather.

"But frost in late August did take a few flowers off, which may be another reason why the peas aren't doing too good."

Mr Fielke expects his barley to make 1t/ha and the wheat 0.7t/ha, particularly on pea and canola ground.

He expects to start again on peas today, followed by vetch and then barley.

Similar to east of Loxton, the northern Mallee has also had very little GSR, maybe 60-70mm.

Platinum Ag agronomist Corey Gilgen said harvest was still a week or two away and there would be some questions over many paddocks.

"There was a little bit of frost, but the catalyst has been the lack of rain, both this year and last," he said.

"There will be some stuff that doesn't go too bad. It's is surprising what crops are out there, considering the lack of rain. But overall it will be down a fair bit."

The barley that has gotten through those frosts is holding up really well, but quality could be down from the moisture stress. - MICK SPARNON

In the southern Mallee, Landmark Pinnaroo agronomist Mick Sparnon said harvest was still about a week away, with only a few out testing barley, pulse and canola paddocks.

Mr Sparnon said the timing was normal and expected harvest to last 4-5 weeks, even despite many frosted cereal crops being cut for hay.

He said Pinnaroo's growing season rainfall was about 185mm - nearly half the annual average - while his northern areas were up to 40mm less.

But he expected barley to still go 2-2.5t/ha, while wheat could make up to 1.5t/ha.

"The barley that has gotten through those frosts is holding up really well, but quality could be down from the moisture stress," he said.

Related reading:Port Pirie scores trifecta with first grain receival

This week Viterra reported harvest was under way across its three regions, with the eastern region receiving its first loads last week.

Monarto cropper Tyson Paech, Inglebrae Holdings, kicked off the season's deliveries for the fourth year running, delivering to Tailem Bend last year and Monarto South the previous two years.

Mr Paech said the first load of Compass barley was reapt from his better-performing paddock, located on the property's higher country.

"I'm very pleased that it made malt grade," he said.

"I've also started reaping peas - again from one of my better-performing crops and the quality is looking good."

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