AUSTRALIA’S forecast record chickpea crop may have some of the topside knocked off yields, according to Grain Growers northern region co-ordinator Susan McDonnell.
Ms McDonnell, also a grower at Thallon in Queensland, near the NSW border, said the ongoing wet spring was conducive for the spread of the two fungal diseases most deadly to chickpeas, ascochyta and botrytis grey mould.
There has been further rain through northern regions over the weekend, with the Maranoa region in Queensland receiving over 50mm in many parts and the western Darling Downs having around 25mm.
The Darling Downs are relatively well equipped to cope, having a drier start than other places, but many areas have received near record rain for September.
“In my area up to 50mm fell on September 9 followed by a further 58mm this week, which brings the areas total to 185mm for September,” Ms McDonnell said before the weekend’s rain.
Ms McDonnell said as well as the disease pressure and the difficulty in getting paddock access to control it, there were problems with waterlogging, a virtually unheard of prospect in Queensland’s cropping regions in September.
And Queensland is not out of the woods yet, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting falls of over 25mm again this week for much of the state’s agricultural zone.
“This week is going to be critical for crop prospects,” Ms McDonnell said.
Ascochyta infection sees crops suffer pod abortion, reduced yields and poor seed quality, while botrytis grey mould also compromises seed quality.
Ms McDonnell said the current ‘wet drought’ was a cruel blow for growers.
“For much of northern NSW and Queensland drought conditions during the past three years had severely impacted cropping businesses, with reduced yields and failed crops resulting in greatly reduced incomes,” she said.
“This year the record high chickpea prices and a, slow but good start, to the season was shaping up to be a much needed change in fortune before the run of excessive wet weather.”
She said the situation was particularly hard-felt in the border region where the interval between rain events had been at its shortest and the rain at its most intense.
Northern NSW has also been hard hit.
“So far this month the Liverpool Plains has received falls of between 40–80mm and suffered some losses but generally the later crops are holding up at this stage.”
Further to the west, she said the dry start in the north-west of NSW around Walgett would work in their favour given the big wet, but said there was still scope for waterlogging.
The best area is in Central Queensland, where yield potential is high as the first harvesters start to roll.
Further south, Ms McDonnell said trafficability was a major issue for growers looking to control disease.
“Paddocks are too wet for ground spray rigs, adding pressure on plane availability for the aerial application of fungicides."