The premiership quarter
By James Urquhart
31st August, 2022
Spring has sprung and with that arrives finals footy as well as a critical time in the calendar for growers and industry alike.
For growers, spring is the premiership quarter, the result of which can determine the outcome of the game. Looking around the grounds today, it is with cautious optimism that we observe a crop in premiership contention. The sense of optimism is validated by an ABARES national winter crop forecast in excess of 50 million tonnes, which would put 2022/23 in 4th position in the record books. However, caution prevails as there are plenty of hard-ball-gets to be won, both in the paddock and on the marketing front.
Relentless rain events across much of NSW means there are regions where waterlogging will undoubtedly hold back crop potential. Furthermore, these wet conditions combined with the warming weather are also teaming up to create an environment more susceptible to heavy disease pressure. The risk of flooding is also heightened; catchments are saturated and any floodwaters due to localised rain events or the release of water from storages looms as a threat to low-lying country along the banks of watercourses between the Castlereagh in the north and almost as far as the Murray in the south.
Crop nutrition, or lack thereof, may also be a factor that rears its head as we edge closer to the final siren. The increased cost of fertiliser has been well documented, but in hindsight was more tolerable alongside the higher grain prices seen earlier in the year. With prices of most commodities retreating in recent months, questions will no doubt be asked as to whether final applications are made, likely impacting yield as well as the quality profile. This is in addition to the expectation that nitrogen levels are already depleted after a couple of consecutive Brownlow medal seasons. These things considered suggests high protein milling wheat could be in short supply, however should the doomsdayers at the Bureau of Meteorology - and other forecasters - be accurate in their predictions for a wet harvest, it might not matter much what the protein is like.
It goes without saying but the perennial climatic risks of frost and heat stress will be closely monitored as the crop progresses through vulnerable growth stages. Whilst the weather delayed sowing program may mean the later-than-usual crops are better positioned to avoid frost, they run a greater chance of giving away heat related yield penalties.
As we approach the pointy end of the season it is typical for growers to start to make some decisions about marketing. For some, the decision will be not to do anything, for reasons that may include a lack of confidence in the crop or seasonal outlook, or a more bullish view of the market. Considering the Aussie production outlook and domestic supply chain limitations, it feels for the moment that markets will need a significant offshore supply scare or geopolitical interference to return to the recent highs that growers are finding it difficult to forget.
Like all finals series there will no doubt be some twists and turns that will have us on the edge of our tractor seat. To all the growers and Geelong supporters reading this, good luck and here’s hoping it all ends in success.
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