October 15, 2008


South Australian winter wheat crop deteriorates


Dry spring weather likely will force a further downgrading of production estimates for winter crops including wheat in South Australia state, Peter Fulwood, a crop consultant to the state's agriculture department, said Wednesday (October 15, 2008). 


But despite record low September rainfall in many areas and thus far a relatively dry October, this year's crops would not be a disaster and output likely will be at a similar level to 2007, he said by telephone from Nuriootpa town, northeast of Adelaide city.


Total production in South Australia last year reached 4.88 million tonnes, including 2.35 million tonnes of wheat and 1.78 million tonnes of barley. In its latest crop report issued Oct. 1, the department estimated total output this year at 5.45 million tonnes, down 16 percent from its previous report a month earlier.


Fulwood said that at the end of August, winter crops were set up for quite a good year, but without much stored moisture in soils, they needed good spring rains to carry them through to a successful harvest.


But the weather dried up and "that's what killed it," he said.


The crop was saved from disaster due to early planting of crops and good farming practices that include minimum tillage, direct drilling of seeds and stubble retention to maximize humus levels in soil and their ability to retain moisture, he said.


J.P. Morgan equity analyst Stuart Jackson said that September and early October rainfall is important in providing crop finishing rains ahead of harvest.


Thus far in October, wheat lands in the state have received 1-10 millimetres compared with a monthly October average of 10-50 mm, he said in a research note Tuesday.


J.P. Morgan downgraded its winter crop production forecast for the state to 5.5 million tonnes from 7.0 million tonnes previously, which cut its national wheat crop projection to 21.6 million tonnes in a total winter crop of 34.0 million tonnes.


If the wheat production forecast is achieved, about two-thirds will be available for export after annual domestic demand of about 7 million tonnes is satisfied.


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