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Reduced Rainfall Affects Australia Winter Crop Season

11 June 2014
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences

AUSTRALIA - Timely and ample rainfall will be critical to winter crop development, despite an encouraging start to the 2014-15 season, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

In releasing the latest Australian Crop Report, Executive Director of ABARES, Karen Schneider, said seasonal conditions have generally been favourable for planting across most states however low soil moisture was reported in others.

"Regions with favourable planting conditions for winter crops include central and southern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia," Ms Schneider said.

"However there have been low soil moisture levels in parts of northern New South Wales and Queensland."

ABARES Crop Report has forecast that the area planted to winter crops in 2014-15 will rise by 1 per cent to 22.6 million hectares, with area planted increasing for wheat (2 per cent to 13.8 million) and canola (3 per cent to 2.7 million). In contrast, the area planted for barley is forecast to fall by 4 per cent to 3.8 million hectares.

The recent rainfall outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology suggests a drier than average winter over much of southern Australia, with chances of above median rainfall less than 30 per cent in south-east South Australia and southern New South Wales. Additionally, the Bureau of Meteorology temperature outlook suggests a hotter than average winter.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology there is at least a 70 per cent chance of the development of an El Niño event in the latter part of the year. However, the impact of an El Niño event on crop production is not uniform and is difficult to predict.

Ms Schneider said in-season rainfall will be critical to the development of winter crops, particularly in areas where soil moisture levels are low.

"If sufficient and timely rainfall is not received yields are likely to be reduced in these areas," Ms Schneider said.

Total winter crop production is forecast to fall by 12 per cent in 2014-15 from the close to record highs recorded in the previous year. Wheat production is forecast to fall by 9 per cent to 24.6 million tonnes; barley by 22 per cent to 7.5 million tonnes and canola production by 8 per cent to 3.5 million tonnes.

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