AUSTRALIA is likely to harvest another massive winter crop but areas of poorer crop mean it is unlikely to challenge last year's record production.
James Maxwell, Australian Crop Forecasters, said there was still significant intrigue surrounding final production numbers.
"Most years you have a reasonable feel for production figures at this stage and if things are going to move you can be confident whether it is likely to go up or down," Mr Maxwell said.
"This year all outcomes are still on the table, we could see things move up or down depending on what happens over the next month to six weeks."
In terms of overall estimates, he has a wheat crop forecast of 31.5 million tonnes, with 1.5m tonnes in Queensland, where harvest has commenced, 10m tonnes in NSW, 4m tonnes in Victoria, 5m tonnes in SA and 11m tonnes in WA.
This is down on last year's record wheat crop of 33.3m tonnes.
He said overall the crop remained in very good condition, but said the season was defined by its variability.
"Patchy is definitely the one word I'd use to describe it," Mr Maxwell said.
"Overall it's good, but you've got parts of NSW and WA that are too wet, you've got parts of north-west Victoria and eastern SA that are way too dry and all other outcomes in between," he said.
"Within that, we're also seeing that variability right down to a local level, a lot of the rainfall this year has been storm-driven so it has meant there is a big difference in the quality of the crops just a few kilometres apart, especially in the areas that are on the dry side."
Mr Maxwell said it was not just rainfall that was influencing crop condition.
"We've had the frost concerns in WA which will have an impact on tonnage," he said.
While he said the band that had severely damaged by frost was likely to be relatively narrow in a macro sense, he said there was the potential for further damage that will only be noticed come harvest.
"There could be 100,000 tonnes lost to crops that are really hard hit, but what we could see are further declines, especially in the eastern Kwinana zone where it has been dry for a while now, where you get to harvest it doesn't yield quite as well as you'd hoped but you're not sure if it was frost or moisture stress."
Along with that Mr Maxwell said he was keeping an eye on mouse numbers through NSW.
"Again, the build-up in numbers is sporadic, but there could be areas where the mice present a problem," he said.
He said while he had cut back WA production from 11.6m tonnes to 11m tonnes there could be another swing upwards again in spite of the frost and dry concerns.
"I have a gut feel we may have gone a little hard on the downside and that we may need to ratchet the numbers back up a little, but that will depend on the end to the season."
He said South Australia was difficult to get a handle on.
"Similar to Victoria it ranges from excellent to poor.
"Most of the Eyre Peninsula is looking good while the reliable Yorke Peninsula is also shaping up well."
However, in contrast, he said the SA Mallee was generally just hanging on, with several areas quite poor.
The Mid-North, after a late start, has recovered well, with generally strong yield potential leading into the final six weeks of the growing season.
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