Agriculture Victoria survey shows tough season for farmers

By Rodney Woods

A record low amount of pasture and a record high crop area were major takeaways from an Agriculture Victoria-run survey.

Seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey, who conducted the survey along with fellow seasonal risk agronomist Dale Boyd and graduate research agronomist Rachel Coombes, said the ratio of pasture grown to crop area planted had changed dramatically since the survey started 21 years ago.

‘‘For the last 10 years, the figures have essentially stagnated but this year there has been a change,’’ he said.

‘‘In 1988, 65 per cent of paddocks was grown for pasture and 28 per cent were for crops.

‘‘In 2008, pasture was grown in 47 per cent of paddocks and 50 per cent for crops and this year 43 per cent of paddocks are growing pasture and crops are occupying 53 per cent.’’

The north-east drive-by survey has been done on the same 682 paddocks that are in the area bordered by the Murray River to the north and the Broken River and Hume Hwy to the south.

With dry conditions and frost forcing farmers to cut crops for hay rather than take them through for harvest, records have also been broken in the percentage of wheat and canola hay produced.

‘‘A record 38 per cent of wheat has been cut for hay. We’ve seen nothing like this since 2007,’’ Mr Grey said.

‘‘For canola, 58 per cent has been cut for hay. You have to go back to 2006-07 to come close.’’

With the canola figures so high, canola production has seen a dramatic drop, replaced by barley and the return of wheat after a lean year last season.

‘‘We’ve had a record planting of barley, which is not common (to be grown) in northern Victoria,’’ he said.

‘‘Four per cent of all paddocks (had barley growing) — up 100 per cent on last year.

‘‘Canola plantings are down 27 per cent on the previous year. 2017 was a record canola planting and is now similar to 2014 and wheat is up 27 per cent on last year after being smashed last year.’’