THE return to favourable summer growing conditions this season has been a boon for summer crop growers throughout the eastern Australia growing regions.
While dry, heatwave conditions in November set back early-sown sorghum, the predicted La Nina weather pattern eventually kicked in, bringing widespread rains that have set up one of the most promising seasons in years for sorghum, corn, sunflower, mungbean, soybean and cotton crops.
On Queensland’s Darling Downs, Nutrien Ag Solutions agronomist at Pittsworth, Hugh Reardon-Smith, said rain in December and early January had kicked along summer plantings.
“We had a fairly good spring planting. The rain really helped those crops come on. We are now seeing corn filling cobs, sorghum filling grain and sunflowers coming into flower. Cotton is running along quite nicely,” he said.
“A lot of mung beans have been planted and are still being planted. They are at early stages yet but establishment seems to be good. There are a few soybeans going in as well.
“It was hard to get an even establishment with the spring plant. They are ‘gappier’ than people would like which will bring the yield back a little bit, but it should be still pretty fair. The summer plant prospects look good, especially if the rain continues to fall as the forecast says it will.”
Mr Reardon-Smith said the only downside was that crops were coming under pressure from a range of pests.
“Fall armyworm is still attacking young crops, predominantly corn. Heliothis pressure in the sorghum has been there, but steady. Mice have been a problem. On established crops they have been climbing up and attacking the heads before there is any grain on them. They are even doing that to Johnson grass,” he said.
“Our advice to anyone planting a crop is to bait before you plant. They have even dug up sorghum seed. They have got into some sorghum crops and stripped the grain.”
North West NSW
In North West New South Wales, McGregor Gourlay senior agronomist, Scott Rogers, Moree, said early-planted sorghum crops, which were starting to be harvested in the last week or so, were a mixed bag when it came to yield because of the hot November.
He said later-planted crops that avoided the heat were doing better, especially with the rain that had fallen of late.
Mr Rogers said the summer crop acreage was only 30 to 40 per cent of what it normally would be because such a large area had been sown to last year’s winter crop.
“There were areas of sorghum go in, small areas of corn and a few mungbeans. Around Warialda and eastwards there have been some soybeans as well,” he said.
Mr Rogers said mice and locusts had been a threat to summer crops this year.
“We have been baiting for mice. There is later summer crop going in now and we are baiting everything for mice ahead of those plantings,” he said.
“Locust numbers are becoming more concerning of late. There has been targeted control while they are still nymphs before they take to the air.”
On the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW, Agromax Consulting agronomist, Greg Giblett, said sorghum crops, which were either approaching flowering or in the first week of grain fill, looked exceptional and had potential to yield above six tonnes per hectare.
Mr Giblett said there had been a smaller area of dryland cotton planted this year, but it was also looking exceptional.
While the irrigated cotton looked good, conditions had been too wet and too cool for it.
“It has saved on water budgets but hasn’t been ideal in terms of high square retention and potential yield. We really need warm conditions to bring the crop home,” he said.
“There has been a lot of fallow spraying from the air because it was incredibly wet through December. A lot of people have had upwards of 900 millimetres annual rainfall.”
Mice are also a problem on the Liverpool Plains with growers running baiting programs in sorghum crops. Growers are also monitoring for heliothis and have sprayed some crops and expect to spray more.
In the Central West of NSW, Nutrien Ag Solutions agronomist, Jim Cronin, Forbes, said the summer crop was in really good shape.
“There is a reasonable amount of corn in the Lachlan Valley and a little bit of cotton to the west. The corn hectares are probably 85 per cent of normal and cotton only about 65pc. Corn is anywhere from hip height to flowering,” he said.
“There is a little bit of dryland sorghum and mungbeans.
“A couple of guys who do long fallow into sorghum have it all planted. It is knee high at the moment and is looking really good.
“The night temperatures have been a bit too cool for ideal cotton growing, but it has been ideal conditions for corn and sorghum.
“There are mungbeans going in last week and this week, but not big hectares.”