After a relatively successful cropping season in 2020 for much of the Mallee, an incredibly dry season this year has many of the region's croppers looking at below average yields.
Pinion Advisory consulting agronomist Richard Saunders, Loxton, said after promising rain in June and July, a lack of falls since then has effectively led crops to "death by a thousand cuts".
"Growing season rainfall is about 115 millimetres for Loxton, that's decile one rainfall here, and particularly around Waikerie way where there has been even less rain, crops are diminishing before your eyes," he said.
In the eastern areas of the Mallee, Mr Saunders said cereals could yield as low as 0.2 tonnes a hectare, while slightly better soils in the Loxton area would range from 1.2-1.5t/ha, or up to 2t/ha for some of the best crops.
"This year, it's been really clear that good rotations produce good crops," he said.
Any cereals on a vetch or lentil or grain legume, are the better looking crops around the place, that's very consistent."
Mr Saunders said many croppers had scaled back on areas sown to canola, grain legumes and vetch, due to the dry start, but he was hopeful for better seasons in the coming years to get rotations back on track.
The hailstorm that caused widespread but patchy damage across the state in late October also hurt some Mallee crops, according to Mr Saunders, with damage ranging from 90-100pc loss in the Meribah and Taplan areas, down to 20-30pc losses in Loxton. Further south was largely spared.
He expected harvest to be "reasonably quick.".
"Harvest began in about the second week of November, and with yields well down, headers are going to be going fairly fast across the paddock, but at the same time, could be going slow to pick up as much as possible," he said.
In the Southern Mallee, Crop Smart Pinnaroo's Aaron Oakley said crop yields would likely be average to below average this year.
Last year was a massive hay season for the district, but this year will be minimal.- AARON OAKLEY
"You wouldn't call it a big year, but certainly not a complete disaster either," he said.
"We've been pretty lucky, because the rain we've had, we've had at the right times, and that's managed to get us through."
Mr Oakley said the area had received about 180mm of rainfall since March, down from a 340mm average rainfall for the region, with some areas to the south of Pinnaroo having snagged a few extra falls.
"Some of the cereal crops slightly south will crack 2t/ha, they got about 1.5 inches (of rain) more than some of the farms to the north of Pinnaroo."
He said canola had fared surprisingly well across the region, and expected yields of 0.8-1t/ha, while lentils would range from 0.5-1t/ha.
"We avoided a fair bit of frost this year - everyone got little bits and pieces but there was nothing too major - so that's going to help yields a bit," he said.
Mr Oakley said hay yields would be well down this year, with many vetch crops not growing high enough to cut.
"Last year was a massive hay season for the district, but this year will be minimal," he said.
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Elders Murray Bridge agronomist Craig Bell said croppers across the Murraylands region could expect varied harvest results, following limited and patchy falls across the growing season.
"We're not going to have an above average year, there may be some average returns with 2 tonne a hectare cereals, and with where the price is that's not too bad, but there will be some crops which won't see a header," he said.
"Some pockets around Murray Bridge and Mannum are looking good, but then out towards Bowhill is a bit tougher."
Mr Bell said lupins would yield well, due to rain at the back end of the season.
"After being very average all year, lupins have come back strong, I'm expecting up to 1.5t/ha in some areas," he said.
"They've podded really well, likely due to quite a mild finish and September rain at the right time."
Mr Bell said crop quality would be good for barley and canola, while there may be some smaller grains and test weights in wheat.
Meribah's Jody Flavel was happy with how his crops were progressing in a tough season, before the October 28 hailstorm caused significant damage to his crops, wiping out whole paddocks.
Mr Flavel crops about 6000 hectares of barley, wheat, canola and lupins on owned and leased land, alongside a 1000 self-replacing Merino ewe flock. Nearly half of the cropping area was impacted by the hailstorm.
"More than 1600 hectares were completely wiped out, in some areas where we think we would have had 1.5 tonne/ha barley crops, they were just smashed to pieces, you wouldn't even know what crop it was," he said.
"There was a sliding scale of damage for the rest of the area, but most of our northern country up around the Nadda region has all been touched up, and that's where some of our best crops were.
"We don't live there, but a neighbour said it was 20 minutes of golfball sized hail, which just destroyed everything.
"Luckily we have insurance, which is very handy."
With so much of our crop wiped out, it'll be a quick harvest.- JODY FLAVEL
The hailstorm hit a week before the Flavels were due to start harvest, in early November.
"With so much of our crop wiped out, it'll be a quick harvest," he said.
Mr Flavel grew three new wheat varieties this year - Ballista, Catapult and Sheriff - and of the crops still standing, he expected grain quality to be good.
"Grain size looks pretty good, the wheat has had such a slow ripening with the cool and mild spring which has helped things," he said.
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"A couple more hot winds in early October, and we would have been a mess."
Mr Flavel said 25 millimetres of rain in early September had also helped the crops in the later part of the season.
"We only had (125mm) in total for the year, and (25mm) over summer, so we've had to use basically every drop," he said.
"It would have been nice to have a bit more rain at the end to fill out the heads a bit more, but we have to be happy with what we've got."
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