Rainfall was above to very much above average in February in much of Queensland’s cropping region. However, below average rainfall from March to May decreased soil moisture reserves and slowed planting, particularly in the Darling Downs.
While strong feed grain prices are expected to encourage planting of cereal crops, low levels of soil moisture and a poor rainfall outlook are expected to limit the ability of producers to fully realise winter planting intentions. Winter rainfall is likely to be below average across Queensland cropping regions according to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (June to August), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 31 May 2018.
Area planted to winter crops in Queensland is forecast to fall by 16 per cent in 2018–19 to around 1.1 million hectares. An increase in area planted to wheat and barley is expected to be more than offset by a significant fall in area planted to chickpeas. Total winter crop production is forecast to rise by 16 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes. In addition to a significant shift in area planted from chickpeas to higher yielding cereal crops, this forecast assumes that yields for all crops will be higher than the very low yields of 2016–17 but still remain below recent averages. Yields are unlikely to reach the ten year averages to 2017–18 because of lower than average rainfall prospects for winter and an expectation that a higher proportion than usual of the total crop will be sown late, which will adversely impact yield potential. It is still very early in the 2018–19 season and average yields are currently forecast to be around 10 per cent below the ten year average to 2017-18. But if rainfall is insufficient or poorly timed, crop prospects in Queensland would likely deteriorate further.
The area planted to chickpeas is forecast to fall by 57 per cent to around 250,000 hectares. This represents an area similar to the ten year average to 2017–18 following the record high area planted in 2017–18 in response to strong export demand for chickpeas. Production is forecast to fall by 46 per cent to 305,000 tonnes.
Area planted to wheat is forecast to rise by 10 per cent to around 670,000 hectares. Wheat production is expected to rise by 47 per cent to around 1 million tonnes. The average yield is expected to recover from the levels achieved in 2017–18 when very dry conditions in most of Queensland’s cropping regions from April to September are estimated to have resulted in the lowest wheat yields in twenty years.
The area planted to barley is forecast to rise by 76 per cent to around 155,000 hectares. Barley production is expected to rise by 133 per cent to 280,000 tonnes. Barley yields are expected to recover from the levels achieved in 2017–18 when very dry conditions in much of Queensland’s cropping region from April to September are estimated to have resulted in the lowest barley yields in ten years.
Table 8 Winter crop forecasts, Queensland, 2018–19
Note: Yields are based on area planted.
Total summer crop production in Queensland is estimated to have risen by 42 per cent in 2017–18 to around 1.8 million tonnes, largely reflecting a recovery in grain sorghum production.
Production of grain sorghum crops in Queensland is estimated to have risen by 67 per cent to 1 million tonnes. This rise is primarily driven by an estimated 52 per cent rise in planted area as well as a 10 per cent recovery in average yield from the below-average yield achieved in 2016–17.
Cotton production is estimated to have increased by 9 per cent to 344,000 tonnes of lint and around 487,000 tonnes of seed in 2017–18. Area planted to cotton is estimated to have risen by 2 per cent to 190,000 hectares and the average yield is estimated to have increased by 7 per cent.
Table 9 Summer crop estimates, Queensland, 2017–18
Note: Yields are based on area planted, except cotton which is based on area harvested.