Soil moisture low

By Country News

Many cropping farmers will be banking on the weather this season, with hopes of a better season hinging on a good autumn break.

It’s an effect replicated across the country according to the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences figures, as farmers remain cautious off the back of last year’s horror season.

Prolonged drought conditions have led to extremely low soil moisture levels, with adequate and timely rainfall required for areas planted to wheat to recover from the low levels of 2018-19 according to ABARES’ March quarter Agriculture Commodities report.

Poor conditions saw canola production fall by 60 per cent to 300000 tones in Victoria, driven by a 33 per cent fall in area planted to 300000 hectares.

Despite Western Australia experiencing a bumper season, relatively stronger prices for barley resulted in many farmers shifting their production.

‘‘In 2019-20 canola production is forecast to increase to around 3.7million tonnes because area planted and yields are expected to return to more average levels. Australian canola exports are forecast to increase in line with production. Over the medium term, Australian production is projected to remain at roughly 3.7million tonnes,’’ ABARES’ Agriculture Commodities report states.

‘‘High domestic grain prices are forecast to continue into 2019-20 until production levels become more certain. Domestic grain stocks are low following the drought-affected 2018-19 crop. Over the medium term, area planted to wheat is forecast to return to pre 2018-19 levels of around 12million hectares.

‘‘If there were favourable seasonal conditions leading into the 2019-20 planting window this would be likely to lead to above-average area planted to wheat — reflecting a reduction in livestock numbers and greater availability of fallow land.’’

The drought in eastern Australia has reduced coarse grain production substantially and increased livestock feed use.

In 2018-19 Australian production is forecast to fall by nine per cent and exports of coarse grains by five per cent with barley production estimated to have fallen by seven per cent to 8.3million tonnes.

‘‘In 2019-20 Australian coarse grain production is forecast to rise by 15 per cent to around 13million tonnes, driven by an expansion in grain sorghum planting. Assuming improved seasonal conditions, barley production is forecast to increase by six per cent to 8.8million tonnes and grain sorghum by 50 per cent to two million tonnes,’’ the report said.