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July 8, 2015

 

Reduced wheat harvest seen in Australia

 

 

Winter-wheat farmers in Australia could expect reduced harvests this year as a result of the weather phenomenon El Niño, which is associated with dry conditions, a plant scientist has warned.

 

Dr Andries Potgieter, of the University of Queensland, said "the likely impact of El Niño on the winter crop this season could be very significant". He made his forecast based on climate data and modelling, remote sensing and historical data.

 

"Wheat growers throughout Australia face a high risk of low-yielding crops for the 2015 winter cropping season, but the effect will vary from region to region," Potgieter said.

 

He explained that the "El Niño and La Niña weather patterns are a part of a natural cycle known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which can strongly influence year-to-year climate variability in Australia". The La Niña phenomenon, as opposed to El Niño, causes more rains.

 

He advised growers to follow the ENSO status closely over the next two months and adjust management based on the likely risks as this phenomenon can affect the supply chain and export trade.

 

"Using appropriate maturity cultivars, adjusting input management in response to known soil water profiles, or even changing the crop-type could help grain growers to better manage the likely impact of this El Niño event", he said.

 

Potgieter said severe El Niño events in 2002 and 2006 badly affected crops and reduced Australia's total gross domestic product.

 

Earlier in June, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics & Sciences predicted that wheat harvest would fall this year to 23.6 million tonnes from the previous season's 23.7 million tonnes due to the drought caused by El Niño.

 

Wheat is a major winter crop in Australia and is one of its most valuable exports, making the country a significant player in the world wheat market.

 

Sowing starts in autumn (March-May) and harvesting usually occurs in spring (September-November) and summer (December-February).

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