HARVESTING of the bulk of NSW’s soybean crop will kick off in earnest this week across the North Coast, with most growers expecting to do better this season despite it being one of the driest on record.
Yields from the 12,000 hectares planted between Grafton and the Queensland border are on track to average 2.5 tonnes a hectare, slightly above long-term average.
Storms in November set up most crops nicely but the dry run up until March took the shine off what could have been a bumper year.
North Coast Oilseeds Growers Association (NCOGA) president Paul Fleming, Casino, said flowering in February’s hot and dry conditions cost growers as much as 1.25t/ha.
“The onset of pods was strong but they just couldn’t cope with those conditions,” he said.
“The March rain did help some of the later-planted crops.
“About 15 per cent, mostly around Kyogle and west of Casino, went in late because that country missed the spring storms.
“But overall there was a lot more baling of crops that had originally been intended for the grain market.”
However, 2014 will be an improved result on last year, when 45pc of the North Coast crop was lost to floods.
It means for the first time in years, oilseed producers on the coast can align good prices with decent yields.
Soybeans for the crushing market this week were making $550 to $570 a tonne delivered Casino and $650/t for the culinary market, delivered Darling Downs, Queensland.
That is $50/t to $70/t above the price this time last year.
Mr Fleming said few growers had locked in contracts, with the forecast for even stronger prices post-harvest, on the back of solid global demand and tighter supply domestically.
The national soybean crop is expected to yield 61,840t from 37,770ha, compared with the 80,000t produced in 2012-13.
Drought severely reduced Queensland’s production and only 1000ha went in across the Northern Tablelands, Moree and Narrabri regions.
The North Coast crop this year featured the new variety Richmond, eight years in the making at the soybean breeding program at Grafton Primary Industries Institute and released commercially this season.
A clear-hilum, high protein variety that allows growers to tap into higher value human consumption markets as well as crushing bean markets, Richmond yielded higher than other varieties in trials and had improved weather tolerance.
About 850ha was planted to Richmond, with pod load feedback good to date.
Judge of the 2014 NCOGA soybean crop competition Bede Clarke said the Richmond crops he had seen were on track to yield well in excess of 4t/ha and it was likely the variety would be embraced in the next few seasons.
Mark and Karen Carter’s manta crop at Cedar Point, near Kyogle, took top honours in the competition, with Geoff and Vicki Pye’s Richmond crop at Coraki second and Shane Causley’s A6785 crop at Chastworth Island third.
Mr Clarke said the winning crops had good management practices, which focused on looking after soils and ensuring adequate nutrients for crops, used permanent beds, which was critical for yield stability, and featured well-selected varieties.
Pyes’ eye for variety at Coraki
FORWARD-thinking management practices, the decision to trial a new variety and drier conditions have combined for a superb paddock of soybeans on the lower country at Geoff and Vicki Pye’s Coraki property, “Oakland.”
The Pyes’ sugarcane farm comprises 240 hectares, 30ha of which is planted to Richmond soybeans on peat soil country.
This season they expect a bumper crop with a yield of more than four tonnes a hectare.
They trialed Richmond for the marketing flexibility it offered, along with its weather tolerance, although the latter did not really come into play given the dry summer.
The crop was planted on December 9 after storms, direct drilled into raised beds, which had been fallowed for six months after cane was harvested.
At planting, a compost mix fortified with soft rock phosphate and sulphate of potash at 300 kilograms a hectare was applied, plus 3t/ha of lime.
The lime balances acidity in low country soils created by the biomass that goes off-field in cane and oilseed production.
The Pyes’ crop had two insect sprays and two weed sprays during the season.
“It was one of the driest summers on record but it finished nicely on 200 millimetres in March,” Mr Pye said.