Frost's cruel timing

THERE'?S never a good time for frost damage ?but this year?'s widespread damage from frost, stretching across south-eastern Australia from NSW?'s South West Slopes through Victoria?'s North Central region and up through the valleys of South Australia?'s Mid North is especially cruel.

Most years there is a correlation between frost and dry so farmers have already known that crop potential was limited.

This year, there was only a month of dry weather in the spring. Inputs had already been thrown at the crop, which midway through September looked exceptional.

Having failed crops is going to cost growers a lot of money.

Some are already reeling from non-payment from failed grain companies and this is yet another kick in the guts.

But all is not lost. It may be heartbreaking to go out into paddocks to find up to 80 per cent wipeouts in high value crops like canola, but the quicker damage is assessed, the quicker a strategy can be created to pull something out from the ruins.

Growers in the Elmore region in the North Central have been especially proactive. Used to cutting and storing hay, they have acted quickly, before wheat crops lose their nutritional value as hay, and have commenced baling.

It?'s true the news of frost has sent cereal hay prices tumbling, but growers have decided getting a crop of decent biomass of good quality hay will eventually generate more income than poking around the paddock for a couple of bags per acre of high screenings grain.

Others have been more reluctant, and the reasons are easy to see ?- they are not set up for hay baling and have previously been burnt by trying to market hay.

It may be that the operation is outsourced to professionals comfortable within the space, or livestock are another option to utilise the biomass in the paddocks.

It?'s a tough space to be in, and the worst bit is knowing there is no real solution ?- you minimise your frost risk by exposing yourself to heat risk.

The only hope is that most growers have spread their sowing program around so natural plant phenology means that while some paddocks will be hard hit, others are not so badly impacted.

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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