Barley as a late sown winter crop might be a better option for farmers hindered by wet paddocks, NSW Department of Primary Industries crop physiologist Dr Felicity Harris has said.
Dr Harris was addressing the Crop Consultants Australia seminar in Narrabri on the topic of crop phenology fundamentals and said growers should always aim to protect their crops during critical periods of crop growth to maximise grain production.
Dr Harris said barley is an excellent option in this type of scenario.
"We know that barley is relatively quick to grow, relative to many wheat varieties.
"It is often flowering a bit earlier, and the other thing we know about barley is it is much more able to accumulate suitable biomass during cold temperatures over winter.
"So it is going to be able to build biomass, to build yield potential in a quicker timeframe compared to wheat."
Dr Harris said that the availability of seed barley would be a pivotal factor to consider if farmers choose it as a late-sowing option.
Data was revealing this planting season is indicating this year is one of the lowest light levels for two decades right across the state from Wagga Wagga to Narrabri.
"We thought 2016 was a typically high rainfall, low light season, but so far, accumulated solar radiation is at record lows for many locations for the last 20 years," she said.
Dr Harris said the crucial factor would be light levels in the critical stages of crop development in August and September.
"If our crops are sown late, trying to accumulate biomass, they will need the appropriate levels of sunlight.
"It's certainly a challenging season for many growers," Dr Harris said.
"We're pushing into late June and early July sowing and getting into cooler temperatures, so we're compressing the growing season.
"Essentially, this will reduce the yield potential. The option now with late sowing is we want quick varieties that can come out of the ground and get through and flower still within an optimal flowering window.
"We don't want our crops flowering into a heat stress period that we can expect later in the year."
Dr Harris said a shortage of seed supplies would pose problems as well.
"Farmers are going to have to manage what they've got.
"It's going to be about managing expectations and realising your (crop's) potential.
"Yes, a quicker phenology type would be best for this later sowing. (But) disease awareness is going to be important this year because the country is wet, and you're not going to be able to get back to much of your country to manage fungicide applications," she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.