Crop conditions and prospects varied widely in South Australia at the start of spring because of highly varied seasonal conditions over winter.
Timely rainfall in August boosted yield prospects in many cropping regions following below average rainfall and warmer than average temperatures in June and July. Above average August rainfall in Lower Eyre Peninsula, lower Yorke Peninsula, the lower north, the central east and the south east significantly increased soil moisture levels in these regions. Yields are expected to be above average.
In other cropping regions seasonal conditions during winter were less favourable. Autumn and winter rainfall was below average in most northern cropping regions, which significantly hampered crop development and contributed to some crop failures in these regions. Timely winter rainfall was enough to sustain established crops in significant parts of the upper Eyre Peninsula, the Upper and Mid North and the Murray Mallee, despite below average levels of lower layer soil moisture. Nevertheless, some crop failures occurred in parts of these regions. Timely spring rainfall will be critical for crops in these regions. Yields are expected to be below average.
According to the climate outlook for spring, issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 30 August 2018, there is a below average chance of exceeding median rainfall in all cropping regions in September and October. There is a below average chance of above median temperatures in September and an above average chance in most cropping regions in October.
In 2018–19 total winter crop production in South Australia is forecast to fall by 5% to 6.6 million tonnes, driven by forecast falls in wheat and canola production.
Wheat production in 2018–19 is forecast to fall by 10% to 3.7 million tonnes as a result of a 13% decline in the average yield. Area planted to wheat is estimated to have increased by 4% to almost 2.1 million hectares largely because of an increase in area planted to wheat on the Eyre Peninsula.
In 2018–19 barley production is forecast to increase by 6% to 1.9 million tonnes. Area planted is estimated to have increased by 12% due to higher expected returns and drier than average seasonal conditions during the planting window. Barley is more tolerant of drier conditions than other winter crops.
Canola production in 2018–19 is forecast to fall by 7% to 298,000 tonnes. Area planted is estimated to have fallen by 5% due to unfavourable expected returns at the time of planting. The average yield is forecast to fall by 2%. Below average yields forecast in northern cropping regions are expected to more than offset above average yields in southern cropping regions.
Table 11 Winter crop forecasts, South Australia, 2018–19.
Note: Yields are based on area planted.