Australian Crop Report: December edition
- National winter crop production in 2022–23 is forecast to reach the second highest on record at 62 million tonnes.
- Crop developments over spring have been mixed with improvements in large parts of the country expected to offset losses in parts of the eastern states.
- Planting of summer crops in 2022–23 is forecast to be well above average, supported by high soil moisture and significant areas of land left fallow during winter.
Mixed prospects around the country add up to second largest national winter crop
Winter crop production in Australia is forecast to total 62 million tonnes, the second highest on record. Production is expected to reach new records in Western Australia and South Australia following favourable spring conditions in these states. Crop prospects in the eastern states remain high overall including forecasts of record production in Victoria, but widespread losses are estimated in regions affected by untimely record spring rainfall.
Seasonal conditions over spring have resulted in mixed prospects for winter crop production around the country. National winter crop production has been revised higher overall due to improved prospects in large parts of the country, which are expected to offset reduced prospects and crop losses in parts of the eastern states caused by widespread flooding and waterlogging. Crop harvests in New South Wales and Victoria are also running much later than usual, with ongoing wet conditions over summer posing additional downside risks.
According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (December to January), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 24 November 2022, there is a high chance that cropping regions in the eastern states and South Australia will exceed their median summer rainfall, posing further downside risks to production forecasts. Western Australian cropping regions are likely to receive average to below average summer rainfall.
Crop prospects in Western Australia and South Australia benefitted the most from spring conditions, with total production in both states forecast to reach new record levels. Consistently wet and cool conditions during spring have prolonged the grain filling period, while less severity and frequency of frost events have also contributed to record yield potentials in these states. Drier conditions in late spring compared to the eastern states have assisted most growers in Western Australia and South Australia with harvesting their crops.
Spring was mixed for the eastern states following well above average prospects at the end of winter. Total production in Queensland is forecast to reach the second highest on record, with record production forecast for most parts of the state expected to offset reduced plantings and flood losses in some parts of the Darling Downs. In Victoria, record levels of plantings and yields forecast for the majority of the state are expected to lift state production to a new record. Most parts of the Mallee are expected to harvest record crops, while prospects are well above average in large parts of the Wimmera. This will offset crop losses in central and northern border regions of Victoria caused by flooding and waterlogging during spring.
Record spring rainfall in New South Wales following well above average August rainfall has led to saturated soils in most cropping regions. Extensive crop losses are estimated, caused by widespread river flooding and damage to yield prospects for inundated crops in most parts of the state. Total production in New South Wales has been revised down by 2 million tonnes since the September edition of the Australian Crop Report.
Wheat production is forecast to reach a new record of 36.6 million tonnes, a 1% increase over the previous record set last year. Barley production is forecast to reach 13.4 million tonnes, the fourth largest on record. Canola production is forecast to also reach a new record at 7.3 million tonnes, a 4% improvement over the previous record set last year.
Area planted to winter crops in 2022–23 is estimated to reach 23.5 million hectares nationally, a slight fall from last year’s record levels. This fall is driven by a 10% decrease in area planted in New South Wales and 9% in Queensland, caused by unfavourable wet conditions at the time of planting in southern Queensland, and northern and central New South Wales.
Crop abandonment in the eastern states due to flooding and extreme rainfall over spring is estimated to total around 16% of planted area in New South Wales, 7% in Victoria and 5% in Queensland. These abandonments are factored into ABARES forecasts through lower state-wide average crop yields, which are calculated on area planted rather than area harvested.
Qualities of grain and oilseeds in the eastern states have been mixed following ongoing wet conditions during spring, which prevented many growers from accessing their paddocks for fertilising and chemical application. Reduced capacity to manage weeds and fungal diseases such as stripe rust have contributed to more noticeable loss in yields than previous years. Crop yields in the eastern states have also been affected differently by the ongoing wet conditions, with cereals being more resilient than canola and pulse crops.
- Summer crop planting in 2022–23 is forecast to fall 9% due to excessively wet conditions and flooding across major production regions in New South Wales.
- Areas planted to cotton and rice are forecast to fall significantly, offsetting increases to grain sorghum area.
Area planted to summer crops in 2022–23 is forecast to fall by 9% to reach 1.4 million hectares, limited by excessively wet conditions and flooding across major production regions in New South Wales. This is expected to largely constrain plantings to cotton and rice crops in the state, despite favourable returns.
Area planted to sorghum crops is forecast to rise by 11%. This is supported by the combination of significant areas of land previously left fallow during winter in both New South Wales and Queensland, ample soil moisture availability for planting crops, and the drier conditions in November in these regions for planting sorghum. Sorghum production is forecast to reach the fourth highest on record at 2.6 million tonnes, remaining 4% below the record production of last season.
Australian cotton production is forecast to decrease 23% in 2022–23 to 4.3 million bales, following a record of 5.6 million bales in 2021–22. Excessively wet conditions and flooding across major production regions in New South Wales during spring have prevented planting. However, improved water storage levels in parts of Queensland are expected to add slightly to cotton production.
Rice production in Australia is forecast to fall by 51% in 2022–23 to 340,000 tonnes, largely driven by a 47% fall in plantings. This comes as widespread flooding in southern New South Wales and extreme rainfall in late spring have prevented many growers from accessing their paddocks. Wet and mild conditions extending to summer are also likely to result in poor emergence and yield prospects.