NSW’s bread basket

With a backdrop of storm clouds, restockers pay up to $342 for ewe lambs at last week’s blue ribbon Barellan First Cross Ewe Sale. The district was the biggest grain producing area in NSW for 2019. Photo: Kim Woods.

In one of the state’s most serious droughts on record, Barellan has been named as the biggest receival site for grain in the GrainCorp system.

With direct headed canola deliveries still being made around New Year, GrainCorp area manager Brad Muller said 70,000 tonnes of wheat, barley and canola have been received at Barellan.

Mr Muller said Barellan was named as the number one site in NSW among the grain handler’s 80 sites. He said the deliveries exceeded expectations by around 20,000 tonnes, surprising both GrainCorp and regional growers.

A total of 6000 tonnes of barley was received at Barellan, along with 8000 tonnes of canola and 56,000 tonnes of wheat.

“The quality was good and yields were better than expected in most areas,” Mr Muller said. “There was very little malt barley due to high protein, which happens in a dry year, but test weights and screenings were good in the barley (90 per cent making BAR 1) around Barellan.

“The majority of wheat graded H2 and above and there was some APH 1, with only one per cent outside the five per cent grain weight limit, protein generally above 11.5 per cent and screenings all came in under 5 per cent.

“Oil content in the canola was better than expected – early crops didn’t fare so well.”

Wheat crops around Hillston and Merriwagga out yielded Barellan but in other regional areas the drought took a toll with high screenings or failed crops.

Mr Muller said Barellan had topped the state several times in the last 10 years. In an average year, the site takes 120,000 tonnes.

“Through this area was the pick of the state but it was still well below average,” he said.

An east coast low deluged coastal NSW over the weekend but Narrrandera recorded a soaking of 35.8mm to bring the total for 2020 to 69.6mm.

Mr Muller said regional growers were surprised how well crops yielded despite the tight winter and spring.

“It is too early to call how this year will go – the rain will give confidence to the people knowing it can rain again,” he said. “January rain will help with the subsoil moisture but obviously we will need a lot more later on.”

According to Barellan grower Doug McDonald, barley crops yielded well despite the tough finish. He said barley yielded an average of 1.5 tonnes/ha and wheat averaged one tonne/ha and canola 210kg/ha.

“We pumped our crops – everyone is going to be very cautious this year, back on seeding rates and won’t go spreading urea,” Mr McDonald said.

Narrandera grower Tim Durnan said crops ranged from “decent to nothing to strip at all”.

“We had barley that went 2.8 tonnes/ha on one block – it was sown early on good moisture,” he said. “There was a lot of wheaten straw and canola cut for hay around Narrandera.

“We had 75mm at the start of harvest so have had to do a fair bit of spraying for weeds over summer, and will have to do a few more paddocks now after the recent rain.”

Nutrien Ag Solutions agronomist David Sergeant said there were no summer crops of rice or cotton in the Narrandera Shire due to low water allocations but some forage sorghum and maize grown under bore irrigation.

Mr Sergeant said the lack of subsoil moisture meant growers were mitigating the risk by reducing canola acreage and increasing barley plantings.

“Canola yields were way back on long term average but many salvaged their crops for hay as the hay market has been so good,” he said.

Mr Sergeant said good soaking rains at the end of February would ideally set up the region for a promising winter cropping season.

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