THE sorghum harvest is well under way in NSW, but a poor growing season will see headers making light work of it.
For those who have produced a saleable crop, their perseverance will be rewarded as strong prices prevail.
Ball Contract Farming director Hugh Ball said harvest had wrapped up near Moree, where the crop was down on size, yield and grade.
Due to the dry conditions, growers struggled to plant sorghum during the sowing window, Mr Ball said.
“It was quite a poor year. Only 60 per cent of the normal area devoted to sorghum was planted and most of it didn’t make it to grain,” he said.
“The crop quality was downgraded, with very little reaching the top grade and there were low test weights due to the dry finish.
“Yield ranged from about 0.5 tonnes a hectare up to 2t/ha.”
However, Mr Ball said most people decided to bale their crop and use it for feed.
“Prices are strong, but mostly growers are storing sorghum on farm and sending it through to feed.”
Soil moisture is “down to zero” in the Moree district and growers will be chasing 150 millimetres to 200mm of rain for winter sowing, Mr Ball said.
Pursehouse Rural Narrabri agronomist James Fleming said the harvest was ongoing in his district.
“Sorghum yields are down generally, even with irrigated crops,” he said.
Dryland sorghum screenings are “up a little, however heat stress at flowering and grain-fill brought dryland sorghum test weights down,” he said.
“About half the dryland sorghum crop reached the top grade. Yields are about 2.5t/ha, but that figure might be a bit lower on areas with lighter soil.”
Mr Fleming said some sorghum in his district “failed and is being used for grazing now, purely due to a lack of moisture”.
Rain across the district has been patchy, he said.
“With the hot weather, evaporation rates were so high the benefit of any falls were counteracted.”
Nurural agronomist Adrian Nelson, Quirindi, said harvest was still a couple of weeks away and with scattered storm rain across the Liverpool Plains, the condition of the crops was mixed.
“The rain has been patchy, so the crops look quite good in some areas and in other areas it looks quite bad,” Mr Nelson said.
“Some crops could yield 6 to 7t/ha of feed grade sorghum,” he said.
However, yields will be down as low as 1t/ha in areas that didn’t fare so well.
“But the average across the district would be about 4 to 5t/ha.”
There was enough rain in the sowing season on the bottom end of the Plains around Willow Tree, during November last year “that anybody who wanted to plant could do”, he said.
In other areas an average amount of sorghum was planted.
Mr Nelson said some last-minute rain could make it just in time.
“The crop is still filling gradually, and more rain would have a good effect on quality and yield.”
Philp Brodie Grains commodity trader Andrew Jurgs doesn’t expect the NSW sorghum market to shift too far from its current level of about $335 delivered at Newcastle Port.
“The market is fairly well priced now. I think when the harvest market comes online we will see some pressure on the Newcaslte port zone prices,” Mr Jurgs said.
“But the market remains fairly weather driven and I expect prices to remain stable.”
Brisbane Port is trading at about a $15 premium to Newcastle, with prices about $350.
“Demand from Brisbane is coming from container exports,” Mr Jurgs said.
NSW is expected to record its smallest crop in almost 20 years, about 364,000t.
The national crop was forecast to yield 1.3 million tonnes, compared with average production of 2.2 million tonnes.