Seasonal conditions during autumn were hotter and drier than average in cropping regions in New South Wales, particularly in the central west and northern regions. It was the State's warmest autumn on record and this is the second consecutive drier than average start to the winter cropping season in most northern cropping regions. There was record low May rainfall or the lowest May rainfall for at least 20 years in many cropping areas. With no significant rainfall in May, and the outlook for below average winter rainfall, area planted in these regions is forecast to fall considerably in 2018–19.
As a result of the unfavourable seasonal conditions during autumn, lower layer soil moisture is below average in most cropping areas in New South Wales. This means sufficient and timely winter rainfall will be vital for crop development in these areas.
According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (June to August), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 31 May 2018, winter rainfall is likely to be below average in cropping areas in New South Wales. There is more than an 80 per cent chance of a lower than average June rainfall in cropping areas in southern and western New South Wales. If this outlook is realised and any rainfall is not timely, winter crop prospects in these regions will deteriorate.
The total area planted to winter crops in New South Wales is forecast to fall 13 per cent in 2018–19 to 4.8 million hectares. Forecast falls in area planted to wheat, canola and chickpeas are expected to be partially offset by a forecast increase in the area planted to barley. Total winter crop production is forecast to rise to 8.3 million tonnes, 23 per cent below the ten year average to 2016–17.
Although total winter crop production is forecast to increase in 2018–19 in New South Wales, the 2017–18 winter cropping season was generally very unfavourable from start to finish. May to October rainfall was below to very much below average, many crops in the north-west had already failed by the end of winter and many crops in the central west cropping region suffered from lack of spring rainfall. Additionally, there were frost events in late August and early spring that adversely affected crop development in many regions. As a result yields in most regions were estimated to be significantly below average.
Although the outlook for 2018–19 winter rainfall is currently unfavourable, it is still very early in the 2018–19 season and below average winter rainfall that is timely may be sufficient to lift yields from last year. Average yields are currently forecast to be around 10 per cent below average but if rainfall is insufficient or poorly timed, crop prospects in New South Wales would likely deteriorate further.
The area planted to wheat is forecast to fall by 10 per cent in 2018–19 to 2.8 million hectares. Although wheat can be planted until the end of June in parts of New South Wales, rainfall in the next few weeks will be critical for planting intentions to be realised. In southern New South Wales prospects for wheat crops are currently better than in central and northern areas. At this stage yields are forecast to be around 10 per cent below average but this assumes there will be sufficient rainfall in June. Production is forecast at 5.3 million tonnes.
The area planted to barley is forecast to increase by 8 per cent in 2018–19 to 850,000 hectares, which reflects expected higher returns from growing cereal crops compared to oilseeds and pulses and the drier than average autumn. Production is forecast to increase by 33 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes, reflecting an increase in the area planted and a forecast increase in average yield compared to the poor yielding 2017–18 barley crop.
The area planted to canola is forecast to decrease by 23 per cent in 2018–19 to 500,000 hectares, reflecting a combination of the very dry start to the season, higher expected returns for cereal crops and rotational constraints. At this early stage, average yields are forecast to increase from the very low yields of last year but are forecast to be 10 per cent below average, resulting in a 3 per cent fall in canola production in 2018–19 to 600,000 tonnes.
The area planted to chickpeas is forecast to fall by 52 per cent in 2018–19 to around 215,000 hectares. The fall reflects lower expected returns from chickpeas relative to cereal crops and rotational constraints following three consecutive years of significant increases in the area planted. Production is forecast to fall by 33 per cent in 2018–19 to 241,000 tonnes.
Table 6 Winter crop forecasts, New South Wales, 2018−19
|Crop||Area||Yield||Production||Area change||Prod. change|
Note: Yields are based on area planted.
Total summer crop production in New South Wales is estimated to have fallen marginally in 2017–18 to around 2.3 million tonnes.
Grain sorghum production is estimated to have increased by 11 per cent in 2017–18 to 430,000 tonnes. Despite the increase from the very low level of production in 2016–17, grain sorghum production was well below initial expectations because of the very hot and dry summer cropping season.
Cotton production is estimated to have increased by 22 per cent to 700,000 tonnes of lint and around 990,000 tonnes of seed, largely reflecting a rise in the average yield of irrigated cotton. Area planted to cotton is estimated to have fallen by 16 per cent to 310,000 hectares in 2017–18.
Rice production is estimated to have fallen by 22 per cent in 2017–18 to 630,000 tonnes because of a fall in planted area. Seasonal conditions were generally favourable and yields are estimated to have slightly exceeded the ten year average.
Table 7 Summer crop estimates, New South Wales, 2017−18
|Crop||Area||Yield||Production||Area change||Prod. change |
Note: Yields are based on area planted, except cotton which is based on area harvested.