Earliest start to harvest on record for many SA farmers

Many South Australian farmers are experiencing their earliest ever start to harvest with early yields often meeting or slightly exceeding expectations, given the dry spring.

South Australia’s crop production for the 2023-2024 harvest is estimated at 9.2 million tonnes, returning to average levels, similar to the 2020-21 season after last year’s record-breaking season.

The 2022-23 harvest smashed previous records of production with 12.1 million tonnes produced and high global grain prices pushing the farm gate value to $4.4 billion.

This season, early harvest grain prices are strong, and quality has been good overall, resulting in an estimated farm gate value of $3.6 billion.

Warmer and drier conditions across South Australia during August, September and October is likely responsible for limiting crop potential to near-average levels in most regions.

Total rainfall from the start of August to the end of October has been below average for all grain producing areas with the Central Hills and Fleurieu, Kangaroo Island and Lower South-East regions the most affected.

The decreased rainfall was coupled with a rise in average temperatures of two degrees Celsius in northern regions.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting the warm and dry conditions to continue during harvest. Stored soil moisture from last year’s above-average spring rainfall allowed crops in many regions to develop well despite the dry spring conditions.

Crops on poorer soils in the Upper Eyre Peninsula and Northern Mallee experienced moisture stress in early spring but yield potential is still expected to be close to average across the state.

Frost in late October impacted crops in the Upper North, Mid North, Murray Plains and Upper South-East regions affecting yield potential in some later maturing paddocks, but most producers remain unaffected.

A widespread frost event in early September also resulted in below-average yields on Upper Eyre Peninsula.

Below-average livestock prices are expected to see producers continue to scale back sheep numbers in all regions next year with some producers looking to introduce more lentil crops.

The South Australian Crop and Pasture Report is now available at: www.pir.sa.gov.au/primary_industry/grains/crop_and_pasture_reports.

Quotes attributable to Clare Scriven

SA grain production is on track for a slightly above average harvest, this is a good result given the below average rainfall across large stretches of the growing season.

Since the last report, frost has had an impact on a number of regions, but in other areas the early harvest yields are higher than expected so the harvest estimate is slightly higher than the last report, now estimated at 9.2 million tonnes.

Quotes attributable to from Brad Perry, Chief Executive Officer, Grain Producers SA

It’s a mixed bag for harvest this year with some areas performing above average and some areas below average when it comes to yields.

The lack of rainfall and dry and hot conditions to finish the season were the main drivers behind what is likely to turn out to be an average harvest for crop production. Off the back of a record season and without finishing rain, it’s a testament to the grain industry’s research and development and grain producers’ on-farm practices that we can still produce more than nine million tonnes.

Download the latest Crop and Pasture Report HERE.