Pulse outlook still positive in most areas, despite serious flooding in NSW
Crop forecast summary – week commencing 26 Sept 2016
A brief respite in the weather in NSW has enabled the Pulse Australia team to compile this September National Pulse Crop Forecast, based on conditions reported early in w/c 26 September.
The story is one of two halves, with crops that are doing well, doing extremely well, with high yields and good quality grain, while those crops badly affected by the recent wet conditions either being written off completely, or impacted significantly with forecast low yield.
The other very significant factor across the country is the severe shortage of fungicides. In many cases, resellers are completely out of stock, and the only supplies of traditional fungicides in the system are those already held on farm.
Anticipating this issue in July, Pulse Australia proactively applied for, and was granted, emergency use permits for additional fungicide chemistry that has helped to ease the pressure to some degree. However, this late in the season, even these chemicals are becoming in short supply. Growers in northern NSW who have held fungicide stock on farm and abandoned their crops have been able to return their products and provide some additional stock to the system.
It is important to note that this Crop Forecast is current at the time of writing, and area and volume estimates are likely to be revised downwards as more rain is forecast for northern NSW and is likely to increase crop losses and yield loss due to any further flooding and disease.
On the positive side, chickpea crops in Queensland are looking very good. Crops have already been harvested on the Atherton Tablelands, and harvesting has just commenced in CQ of the earlier sown crops. The CQ crops are looking exceptionally good, with yields above 2 t/ha more the norm than the exception. Some crops will reach 3 t/ha. The later sown crops in this region, however, still have some way to go and as such are susceptible to disease. Prudent use of appropriate fungicides by growers, however, will go a long way to mitigate the disease pressure in these crops.
On the Darling Downs, the chickpea crops are holding up well, having benefited from recent rains. However, with canopy closing, any further rain will have a negative impact through increasing disease pressure. The unknown at this stage is any impact from phytophthora, as any infection present now will not manifest in the crops until 2-3 weeks time, and there is no effective control once the pathogen is established in the crop.
Moving further south, the situation changes markedly approaching and across the NSW border. In an area broadly bordered by Goondiwindi in the north to Narrabri in the south, and from the Liverpool Plains in the east to Walgett in the west, crop losses (chickpea and faba beans) have been severe due to waterlogging and or flooding. This is before taking into account any impact from disease, which is imminent given forecast rains and fungicide shortages. At this stage, Pulse Australia is estimating a 55% reduction off previous forecast area and a 65% reduction in harvested volume for chickpeas and for faba beans, 70% and 82% reductions respectively.
In stark contrast, crops of both chickpeas and faba beans further east on the Tablelands and across to the Northern Rivers are looking very good, particularly those able to benefit from easy topographical runoff.
As has been reported in the media, the Lachlan and Macquarie valleys have experienced very heavy rain, with run off impeded by an already well fed Murray–Darling system. Many crops west of the Newell Highway have been under water or waterlogged for over a week, and will not recover. Pulse Australia has reduced sown pulse area by 60% for both chickpeas and faba beans, and consequent reduction in production of 70% for these crops.
Elsewhere in NSW, moving further south, to the slopes and east of the Newell Highway, the crops are reported to be in excellent condition. Similarly, in the MIA, crops are also looking good, but where crops are at risk of water damage, they are being sprayed out to enable timely sowing of cotton, to take advantage of a favourable cotton price.
Victoria and South Australia
Throughout Victoria and South Australia, the lentil crop is looking excellent, particularly in the Wimmera and Mallee of Victoria, and on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsula of South Australia. There have been some reports of lodging of faba beans, however this is not expected to significantly impact production levels. On the basis of positive crop conditions in these states, area and yield remain unchanged from the last forecast.
In WA, severe frosts over the past week across the Great Southern are expected to impact the lupin crop. The full impact is yet to be fully understood, however, Pulse Australia has been prudent in its estimates and reduced yield for lupins by around 10%.
More information: Australian Pulse Crop reports