Farmers embrace another bumper harvest

Oaklands farmer Andrew Nixon getting the job done. Mr Nixon was averaging a yield of 7 tonnes per hectare of barley before Christmas.

Local farmers are counting their blessings despite recent rain challenges as the 2021 harvest comes close to completion.

Extreme weather conditions including widespread rain in recent weeks caused delays and quality downgrades. Fortunately, grain farmers had finished most winter crop harvesting when the region was inundated by 60mm to more than 200mm of rain in less than 48-hours.

Despite the inclement weather brought on by a La Niña system, strong yields, solid quality and good prices are still predicted across much of the country.

Daysdale farmer Denis Tomlinson wrapped up harvest last Wednesday and said this year looked to be another strong year.

“Yields were pretty good across our canola, wheat and barley crops, so we are pretty happy,” Mr Tomlinson told the Free Press.

“Harvest was delayed a fair bit thanks to late season rain. We had some downgrading of wheat and barley due to the rain in November and early December but overall, we are very pleased with the 2021 harvest.

“The yields are slightly better than last year, and canola prices are also stronger than last year, cereal prices for downgraded grain are probably similar to what we received in 2019.”

Before Christmas, Oaklands farmer Andrew Nixon was averaging a yield of 7 tonnes per hectare of barley in a new Case IH 8250 header.

Mr Nixon along with his brother James and father Richard, maintain a busy cropping operation comprising wheat, barley, canola, maize and rice.

Harvesting finished on 1800ha of canola in late November, producing another above average result of 2.7 tonnes to the hectare, a great outcome considering the record prices at present.

Mr Nixon said the heavy rain and flooding in the region in November had, “knocked the quality of the crops around a bit but wasn’t too bad”. They certainly counted themselves lucky compared to the flood damage experienced in other regions of NSW at the time.

“We’re a bit worried about the quality of the wheat – some of it’s a little shot and sprung. But we know we have some good and some bad, so it’s just a matter of segregating the two and trying to market them the way they are,” he said.

Rennie district crop farmer Craig Marshall hadn’t quite finished harvest prior to last week’s deluge, and despite some damage he said it was still an “extremely good harvest.”

“We are very happy with yields. The quality is not as good as it could be, but overall, still very happy,” he said.

“There have been a few delays mostly because it was a late start. We also seemed to have copped every thunderstorm here. We had 55mm of rain on Thursday and 50mm nearly two weeks ago, so there were plenty of half days of work.

Despite the weather interruptions, Mr Marshall said this harvest was slightly improved on last year.

“Price-wise it’s better than 2020. I said to one of my son’s last year ‘you won’t see another season like that’ and then we followed it up with a slightly better year,”

“It’s a big season. We have had extremely big canola yields and very good wheat and barely crops. There has been plenty of 7-tonne wheat crops and 8-tonne barley crops, hence why we aren’t quite finished harvest.”

Despite the rain affected harvest, GrainCorp receivals have continued strongly throughout NSW and Victoria over the festive season, with over two million tonnes of grain received since December 20, making it one of the busiest holiday receival periods on record.

To date, NSW has received over 7,242,900 tonnes if grain while Victoria has received 3,451,740 tonnes.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Executive Director Dr Jared Greenville said the December Australian Crop Report forecasts 2021–22 winter crop production to reach a record 58.4 million tonnes following favourable growing conditions over spring.

“The national record is driven by expected all-time high production in Western Australia and the second highest on record in New South Wales. Production in other states is also well above average,” Dr Greenville said.

“This reflects favourable growing conditions over spring which have helped to boost already high production prospects at the end of winter.

“Record production of wheat (34.4 million tonnes) and canola (5.7 million tonnes) is expected. Production of barley is forecast to be the second highest on record (13.3 million tonnes).

“A series of heavy rainfall events during November has delayed the harvest of winter crops across New South Wales and Queensland likely leading to a fall in grain quality in unharvested crops.

“Flooding in northern and central parts of New South Wales has also resulted in production losses for some producers, but this is not expected to significantly affect state totals.

“There’s good news when it comes to mice, with increased baiting on farms during winter and spring reducing populations in affected regions, and there have been no reports of significant damage.

“A La Niña event became established in the tropical Pacific during November, increasing the chance of above average rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia during summer.

“This above average rainfall outlook for New South Wales and Queensland, coupled with well above average rootzone soil moisture levels, may lead to further quality downgrades and some crop losses due to flooding, limited paddock access to complete winter harvest activities, and complete summer planting programs.

“The area planted to summer crops in 2021–22 is forecast to increase by 36 per cent to reach 1.4 million hectares, due to favourable soil moisture levels in late spring and high water storage levels.

“The area planted to cotton is expected to increase the most, driven by better returns to cotton compared to other summer crops.”