Sorghum farmers now anxious for good rain

Searing temperatures and lack of rain have farmers worried about how crops will cope.

Darling Downs sorghum farmers are anxious for rain as scorching temperatures rapidly drain crops from dwindling soil moisture reserves.

Searing day time temperatures, which climbed into the low 40s in some parts of the Darling Downs on Saturday, and the lack of any meaningful rainfall has left farmer nervous about how crops will cope. Daytime highs on Saturday across the Downs were 5 to 6 degrees hotter than normal across the western and central Downs while much of the southern was 7 to 10 degrees above the longer-term January average.

Most sorghum crops still look to be handling the heat reasonably well, although some paddocks are starting to show signs of moisture stress. But the unrelenting heat means any benefits of the patchy falls across the Darling Downs at the start of January are long-gone and rain is needed in the coming weeks to maintain prospects for average to above average yields.

Farmers are hoping the cyclonic weather across northern WA may push much-needed moisture across into Queensland and northern NSW. However, the latest weather forecast offers limited optimism the tropical northern rains will result in any significant rain for central and southern Queensland.

Longer term season outlooks released by the Bureau of Metrology point to more favourable weather in the medium term. The February to April rainfall outlook, issued January 11, shows most of eastern Queensland are likely to be wetter than average, according to the outlook. February is likely to be wetter than average, the Bureau said.

Traders were cautious about the favourable weather outlook for the northern summer crops, saying the December medium term forecast also predicted wetter and cooler conditions, and this failed to materialise.

Northern grain markets continued to push higher in the past week as grain buyers become more concerned about summer crop prospects.

Darling Downs sorghum bids spiked into the $280s last week, up close to $20 a tonne on last week. Similar gains were seen in the Newcastle market. Alternative feed grains such as wheat and barley strengthened as buyers factored prospects that the upcoming sorghum crop may not be as large as they were hoping.

Darling Downs stockfeed wheat ended the week $7 higher at $322 and feed barley matched these gains. However, sellers remain scarce.

Strength in the northern grain markets resulted in a general strengthening in the east coast grain prices last week, ignoring further gains in the Australian dollar and a late selloff in United States wheat futures.

CBOT wheat futures tumbled on Friday after the USDA revealed larger than expected winter wheat plantings in the US. At the same time, the USDA also lifted its estimates of Russia’s 2017/18 wheat crop by a further 2 million tonnes to 85mt, a whopping 12.5mt bigger than last season’s previous record large harvest. Russian wheat exporters were increased by 1.5mt to 35mt, up 7.2mt on last year.

Aggressive Russian wheat exports continues to erode export demand for other origins, including Australia.

USDA kept Australia’s wheat crop unchanged at 21.5mt, but lowered forecast exports were lowered by 1.5mt.

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