CROP COVER: Senior field officer with FAR Australia, Michael Straight, at Thursday's spring field day at Riverine Plains' Burramine research centre. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

Frost lack of rain takes toll on Riverina crops

While heat and a lack of rain has hurt the majority of NSW’s winter cropping, southern Riverina farmers are more concerned about frost damage

While the majority of NSW’s winter cropping season has been destroyed by persistent heat and a lack of rain, southern Riverina farmers are more concerned about frost damage.

About 65 croppers attended Riverine Plains spring field day, held at Burramine in conjunction with FAR Australia, on Thursday with frost attracting as much of the focus as the lack of spring rain.

“We’re not too bad, we had a bit of extra rain early on and we haven’t been affected by the frosts as much because we’ve had the bit of extra moisture,” Barooga farmer John Bruce said on Friday.

“No doubt there’ll be some frost damage there but not big areas, I’ve got neighbours who have big areas of damage. It’s a little bit hit and miss.”

Michael Straight, FAR Australia, and Cassandra Schefe, Riverine Plains, led a discussion on frost impact on cereals and the latest on frost risk at the field day.

The day also covered a site tour of Riverine Plain’s trial plots.

Grains Research and Development Corporation northern panel chairman John Minogue, who farms at Barmedman in the northern Riverina, toured the region's crops earlier this month and agreed frost impact was up until now the biggest concern.

“The crops closest to the Murray River are faring the best in this part of the world, but everywhere needs a drink, the critical area is rapidly moving south,” Mr Minogue told Fairfax Media.

“Before the weekend it was Wagga Wagga and north that had been really knocked around by the dry and heat, now that line is coming down towards Henty ... and there are some crops with pretty good biomass out there that are badly frosted.”

Riverine Plains chair Ian Trevethan, Howlong, said yields would suffer.

“It’s probably a bit too early to see how much damage the frost has done but it will take a bit of the cream off the top I think,” he said.

Australian Crop Forecasters predict NSW wheat production to be less than half of last year.

Total NSW wheat production last year was 10.6 million tonnes, it would be closer to five million tonnes this harvest.

“20 or 30 mil of rain would go a long way, Mr Bruce said.

“Going forward any rain we can get will obviously be a big benefit.

“It’s hard to know how things are going to yield if it doesn’t rain … when you’re talking mid 20s and a howling breeze it will end the job pretty quickly.”

South of the Murray, Victorian Farmers Federation vice president Brett Hosking said another rain would be necessary to push towards above average yields, but said crops were generally in good condition.

“It was a dirty day with the heat and weather on Saturday, but crops have got through it OK,” he said.

“Most people are happy enough with where the crop is, they would just like to see another rain to really finish the season off.”

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