Above average summer rainfall in Western Australia was followed by warmer and drier than average seasonal conditions over much of autumn. This meant soil moisture levels were well below average during the opening of the planting window and large areas of crop were sown dry. Rainfall late in May across much of the northern and central cropping areas provided a timely season break. Planting intentions are expected to be realised in most parts of the state. Soil moisture levels remain below average in the Esperance region and timely and sufficient rainfall will be required to ensure even crop germination and development.
According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (June to August), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 31 May 2018, there is no strong tendency toward either higher or lower than average winter rainfall in Western Australian cropping regions. ABARES has assumed average winter rainfall.
Total area planted to winter crops is forecast to fall by 2 per cent to 8.3 million hectares in 2018–19. Winter crop production is forecast to decrease to 14.3 million tonnes, assuming average seasonal conditions. Yields for all crops are assumed to be close to the five year averages to 2017–18.
The area planted to wheat is forecast to fall by 3 per cent to 4.8 million hectares. This is due to an expectation of slightly reduced planting in eastern cropping areas, where cropping tends to be more opportunistic than other parts of the state. Production is forecast to increase by 2 per cent to 8.1 million tonnes.
The area planted to barley is forecast to rise by 8 per cent to 1.5 million hectares. Expected margins on barley are providing a strong incentive to increase planted area, and conditions were less favourable for canola planting earlier in the season. Production is forecast to decrease by 5 per cent to 3.5 million tonnes due to yields falling to average levels.
The area planted to canola is forecast to fall by 6 per cent to 1.3 million hectares. Reduced area planted to canola is expected to be offset by increased area planted to barley in many cropping programs. Rotational constraints are likely to limit canola planting for some growers. Production is forecast to decrease by 18 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes.
Table 12 Winter crop forecasts, Western Australia, 2018–19
Note: Yields are based on area planted.