Rain plays havoc with winter crop

AN ESTIMATED 70% of the Southern Downs winter crop is in the ground, but for local grain growers still battling to get onto wet paddocks the planting window is rapidly closing.

Olsen's Produce manager Ian Wallace said rain had played "considerable" havoc with this year's winter planting.

"We've had rain on and off since June, when planting started," Mr Wallace said.

"Some people have been able to get crop in the ground, but for others it has been a bit of battle.

"What happens weather-wise over the next two weeks will determine what gets planted, but for optimum yields crops should be in by the end of July."

Mr Wallace said 65-70% of winter crop had been planted, with wheat and chickpeas dominating crop choice.

"Growers have basically made decisions based on price," he said.

And while the wet weather has created an anxious mood on-farm in recent weeks, the upside was a rise in global grain prices.

Summer crop prices for grains such as sorghum have kicked $30/tonne over the past three weeks to hover around $210-215/t.

"The price rise is a result of a lower-than-expected corn yield in Central America, which has pushed up futures prices and in turn the Australian grain market," Mr Wallace said.

Further north Allora agronomist Penni Hetherington agreed growers were under pressure as wet weather delayed winter planting schedules.

"Some farmers have been waiting for country to dry out," she said.

Across the Central Downs this season she said fortunate growers had already planted winter staples such as wheat and barley, with an increase in chickpeas.

"Good prices for chickpeas have motivated plantings this year and for some this is the first time they have grown the crop," Ms Hetherington said.

"And really, for the best results, chickpeas should be planted by now. However growers do have a couple of weeks for other crops, but whether they can plant now will depend on the weather."

Wet conditions have also caused anxiety for local growers struggling to finish the cotton harvest.

"There is still cotton standing around here, which isn't ideal," Ms Hetherington said.

"It is a similar situation out west on the plains, with rain delaying picking.

"But if we do have some sunny days to bleach the cotton after this wet weather it should be okay."

On a broader note, she said the rain hadn't been a complete negative.

"Those growing forage crops, which have already been grazed will most likely welcome the falls," Ms Hetherington said.

"Like everything I guess it is a positive for some and a negative for others.

"The really telling thing will be what happens with the weather over the next fortnight."

Topics:  commodities grain southern downs weather

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