WESTERN Australia's 2019 seeding program is shaping up to be similar in size to last year.
The Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) released its first crop report for the year last Friday and said the intended crop area mix for the coming season is generally unchanged from 2018.
In terms of area estimates, WA could see just over 8.2 million hectares of crop planted this year.
This would be made up of 4.56mha of wheat, 1.73mha of barley, 1.23mha of canola, 320,000ha of oats, 390,000ha of lupins and 40,000ha of pulses.
The biggest wheat planting is expected to take place in the Kwinana zone, with 2.6mha, while the majority of the pulses - 30,000ha - would be planted in the Esperance zone.
Report author and consultant Michael Lamond said it was a straightforward report in a way, given there wasn't a lot of change from last year's plantings.
"The surprise in the report is probably that there were no surprises," Mr Lamond said.
"Given the issues in the barley industry at the moment, there was a thought that plantings may decrease, but in a lot of areas we are estimating they will actually increase.
"I think this is a reflection that growers are keen to stick to their rotations for long-term benefit.
"They have probably done their budgets and at $250 a tonne, they think that is still OK, particularly given they want to keep those rotations going."
Mr Lamond said there were very little changes in other areas.
"Lupins are up and at this stage canola is up on last year, but in 2018 canola was dropped out of programs because of the late start in some areas," he said.
"That could still happen this year depending on when the rain comes."
The GIWA report said growers were generally holding back on dry sowing this year and there had been a noticeable decrease in the urgency to plant crops dry.
"The long spell from sowing until the break of the season last year, and the absence of an opportunity for a knockdown herbicide treatment for weed control during that period resulted in many cereal crops ending up weedy, or 'dirty', at the end of the 2018/2019 season," the report said.
"Wheat plantings look to continue the recent trend downwards, being substituted more for the break crops canola, lupins, legume pasture and pulse crops, rather than barley.
"The intended barley area is similar to last year in most areas except for the south east Albany port zone where there was an increase in plantings in 2018 being substituted for canola due to the difficult start.
"The relatively small, but increasing, area of barley in the Geraldton port zone may come back a little this year due to the current lack of sub-soil moisture."
Canola plantings were on track to increase this year, with GIWA estimating a jump of about 15 per cent to levels similar to 2016 and 2017.
"Although the lack of sub-soil moisture in the lower rainfall regions and the lack of rain to date will mean that plantings are now more on track to be similar to 2018," the report said.
"The intended lupin plantings are slightly higher than last year continuing the trend over the last few years, with traditional lupin growing regions increasing plantings, and lupins expanding into less traditional areas in the south of the State.
"Legume pastures are being sown dry at the moment and the area looks to be slightly greater than last year.
"The same can be said for pulse crops, although the increase in plantings are more experimental."
In terms of a zone-by-zone breakdown, the Geraldton zone plantings are tipped to be similar to last year in the medium and high rainfall regions with any major swings likely to occur in the low rainfall regions depending on when the season breaks.
GIWA said the lack of any significant rainfall to date is a complete contrast to the 2018 season where the majority of the zone had very good levels of sub-soil moisture which contributed to the region returning record tonnages, all the more remarkable given the amount of growing season rainfall and the lack of rain in the spring.
"Geraldton zone growers are generally holding back on dry sowing, as per the majority of the grainbelt, with most not intending to start until around ANZAC Day unless it rains between now and then," the report said.
"There are some growers sowing canola based on the anticipated rain this week although this is more the exception than the rule."
In the Kwinana zone, there was also a prediction that cropped hectares wouldn't change too much from 2018.
"Wheat area is likely to be unchanged and barley could be down slightly due to the current prices being substituted for slight increases in lupins and oat hay," GIWA said.
"While there is no immediate intention to change intended canola plantings, the lack of sub-soil moisture and the lack of rain will start to impact on plantings as we move into May.
"There is some increase in legume pasture plantings occurring in the region."
In the west of the zone, the wheat and barley crop type mix was not likely to change too much from 2018 as more consideration was given to the long term impact on rotations rather than short term changes.
"The barley area is projected to remain around 50pc of the cereal crop in the western areas of the zone due to profit, potential yield compared to wheat, and the ability to control brome grass, even though the barley price has come off from the highs of last year due to the China malt and feed barley market uncertainty," it said.
"The canola area may drop back slightly as it could in other areas of the State, depending on the timing of the break to the season.
"In this region, yield based around time of sowing and potential profit are as important as the weed control benefits."
The east of the Kwinana zone is one of the few areas in the State where there is some stored moisture in the soil profile and small areas of crop have been planted.
In a stark contrast to this time last year, areas of the Albany zone have some level of stored moisture and small areas of canola have been sown to date.
"This region is projected to have only slight changes in crop area from 2018 with wheat likely to be down slightly, barley up, milling oats and oat hay up with the regular oat growers, and canola down," the report said.
"There are going to be small experimental plantings of pulses and the area of legume pasture will increase slightly."
The Esperance zone was very dry with growers commenting that "it has not been this dry at this time of the year for a long while".
GIWA said the Esperance zone had a history of not changing crop areas from one year to the next based on price projections as much as some other regions, and this year looked to be the same.
"The barley area is projected to be unchanged from 2018. The smaller area of wheat in the region looks also to be unchanged for the year," it said.
"The lack of sub-soil moisture will see canola plantings backing off in a couple of weeks if there is no rain, although this will be more gradual over time than may occur in other regions of the State.
"There looks to be the continued shift to TT hybrid varieties in the region away from Bonito, which was over 90pc of the crop in 2017."
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