Heat affects harvest

By Country News on December 15, 2015

’’Dry conditions and extreme heat have been blamed for a bad harvest season and forced cropping farmers in Elmore and surrounds to cut hay instead of harvesting grain.

Elmore cropping farmer Ged McCormick described the season as ‘‘very ordinary’’ and a lot of farmers in the area were cutting wheat and barley for hay.

‘‘It’s been one of the worst years,’’ Mr McCormick said.

Mr McCormick runs a 1000ha mixed-farming operation with his brother Paul and has around 70ha of wheat, barley, seed and hay oats, lupins, canola and some rye-grass.

Taking a handful of grain from a bucket, Mr McCormick snapped the seeds to demonstrate the poor quality.

‘‘There’s no weight in it, no kernel in the middle — it’s not high value.’’

Mr McCormick decided this year to cut a lot of his crops for hay and said a lot of crops died before they were able to ripen.

‘‘We cut 300 acres (121ha) of wheat that normally would’ve gone to grain.’’

Mr McCormick harvested a mere 0.25 tonne/ha of barley this season — he said a normal season yielded 4-5 tonne/ha.

Although there is only an estimated 150 tonne of grain sitting in Mr McCormick’s silos, the mixed enterprise, which includes 250ha of sheep, has helped the the business.

‘‘We are fortunate that we have dry land for the lucerne ... that’s been a saviour for (feeding) the sheep.

‘‘It pays off in these conditions to have a mixed farm because not many pennies come from the grain and it won’t be that bad financially as it could’ve been.’’

While most of his harvest is complete, Mr McCormick was finishing the last paddock of oats last week and said it was looking even worse than the barley.

An agronomist from Landmark in Elmore, Greg Toomey, said the area had experienced one of its lowest rainfalls in the past 20 years.

Mr Toomey said grain yields and the quality of barley were low and although the general quality of wheat was okay, a lot was cut for hay.

Despite the tough season, he commended farmers on their adaptability and gave them full credit for their decision-making despite poor conditions.

‘‘For most of our growers ... they’ve been flexible enough to cut crops for hay,’’ Mr Toomey said.

He said although most farmers wanted to grow grain, being proactive and making early assessments was vital this year.

‘‘The hot weather during the field days convinced farmers it would’ve been better to cut hay than grow through ... they need to make the best business decisions for the best return.’’

Owner of a mixed-farm in Toolleen, Rodger Kemp, also had a poor season of crops.

Mr Kemp said he only harvested around a quarter of the yield that he usually would and did not even yield one tonne/ha of wheat grain.

‘‘It hasn’t been inspiring to get on the header,’’ he said.

By Country News on December 15, 2015
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