Frost fiasco wreaks havoc on pulses

Late season frost to damage pulse yields in Victoria's Wimmera while storms rip through NSW

Wimmera chickpea crops were decimated by a late season frost last week.

Wimmera chickpea crops were decimated by a late season frost last week.


UPDATED: The scope of the Wimmera frost now appears to extend right through to the SA border.


ONE OF the latest frosts recorded in the important pulse producing region of the Wimmera in Victoria is set to put a significant dent in tonnages of high value crops such as lentils and chickpeas.

“We’re expecting frost damage of around 30 per cent in pulse crops across the Wimmera Plains,” said James French, general manager of Wimpak, a pulse processing business based at Minyip.

“It is variable and a lot depends on the crop development stage, we’re hearing everything from near wipe-outs to only minor damage, but certainly overall there will be a fair bit stripped off total production,” Mr French said.

“Lentils and chickpeas will be the worst hit.”

The frost comes as a blow for pulse producers, particularly of Kabuli chickpeas which are currently worth $1400 a tonne.

“The chickpea crops had been looking really good, which makes it all the more disappointing,” Mr French said.

In better news for growers, Mr French said at this stage it appeared cereal and canola crops were too advanced to be significantly damaged.

The frost, which occurred on Friday night, November 3, is one of the latest recorded in the region, however Mr French said one grower recalled a similar ultra-late frost causing damage previously.

The worst of the damage is in the area from Warracknabeal to south of Rupanyup.

Lentil crops will suffer frost damage in the Wimmera.

Lentil crops will suffer frost damage in the Wimmera.

Reports of damage have also come in through the far western Wimmera, right across to the South Australian border.

While pulses are the worst impacted, farmers are also keeping an eye on other crops, wary that damage may become only become visible in coming weeks.

Mr French said the frost damage would be both to tonnage and to quality.

“The type of losses will depend on the crop development stage.

“If it has hit at flowering there will be an impact on yield, if the plants are podding, we’ll see more problems with crop quality, in terms of small seed size and discolouring.”

Mr French said he did not expect the frost to have an impact on pulse prices.

“There’s plenty of global supply and even within Victoria, crops north of Warracknabeal are generally unaffected.

“You might see a few short term spikes with exporters looking to get supply for a shipment but you wouldn’t expect a prolonged lift in values.”

The Wimmera frost was not the only adverse weather event for the week.

A series of storms swept through NSW earlier this week, with isolated pockets of damage right through the State, including wind damage in the Central West and northern Riverina and hail in the north.

West Wyalong farmer Dan Mangelsdorf said wind was the major problem.

“There was 20mm in West Wyalong, we had 10mm at the farm, which should not do a lot of damage, but the wind was strong enough that it could blow seed out of canola pods.

“Canola crops were already very light due to frosting, it remains to be seen what will happen after this.”

Mark Hoskinson, Kikoira, said crops in his area were already poor and did not expect the rain to hurt them, although he said windrowed canola may have been blown.

GrainCorp issued its first harvest update for the year earlier in the week, reporting 717,000 tonnes of deliveries, with over 70pc of that in Queensland.

In its update it said harvest was well underway in northern NSW, but added stormy rain had been causing delays.

South Australia’s major bulk handler Viterra has received 228,000 tonnes, with the majority of deliveries in the past week as harvest heats up through early finishing cropping regions.


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