WITH the curtain officially drawn on the 2021 season, attention has turned to the 2022 growing season and the cost of putting a crop in has gone up substantially.
That's primarily due to high fertiliser and herbicide prices due to supply constraints and will result in less area sown and subtle swaps in crop types.
According to the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) crop report author Michael Lamond, there will be more fallow in the low rainfall regions unless there was another exceptional start and more canola will be planted in the medium and high rainfall zones.
"The total area sown to crop in the low rainfall zones will be strongly driven by the amount and timing of rainfall in April and May," Mr Lamond said.
"Barley will be swapped out for wheat in the higher rainfall zones due to the current lack of upside potential to price compared to wheat.
"There will be more crop and pasture legumes sown to provide nitrogen for crops sown in 2023."
The oat area will likely remain static as even though sown area was down a lot in 2021, there was more grain produced than in previous years.
The western and south coast regions of WA have subsoil reserves of moisture, while the low rainfall zones are completely dry.
The next few months will have a big impact on the size of the 2022 crop area.
Having been a standout crop in 2021, with the new varieties available showing more resilience and reliability in the lower rainfall districts, more area will be sown to canola and less to lupins this year.
"After two good seasons, the low rainfall district will look to more chemical fallow this year to reduce their risk profile and reduce weed burdens," Mr Lamond said.
"Growers are mindful that the chances of getting a third good season in a row can't be high, and this could amount to a drop in cropped area of around 30 per cent."
Sclerotinia remains a big yield threat in canola, particularly closer to the coast.
Mice may need baiting as well, but good measurements and observations will be needed.
Substantial quantities of mice baits have been purchased in preparation.
In Kwinana North Midlands, the canola area may rise depending on the timing of the break to the season, but many growers are full of canola and have little scope within their rotations to sow more canola, or to bring additional paddocks into crop.
The increasing risk from sclerotinia, and also now for lupins, is also a deterrent.
The barley area should fall in favour of more wheat and overall, the cropped area will fall slightly.
For Kwinana South, one of the main challenges for this year will be weed control as many crops had late germinations of ryegrass that will need to be controlled with a knockdown or with pre-emergent herbicides.
The high stubble loads from the high yields will need to be dealt with if they weren't at harvest.
"There is likely to be a slight move away from barley to wheat, and growers not maxed out with canola area will plant more hectares," Mr Lamond said.
"Growers with sheep are retaining older ewes and we will see a slight increase in sheep numbers for the first time in many years."
Canola was the standout crop in 2021 for profitability in Kwinana North East.
While most growers would like to stick with the area sown in 2021, it will depend entirely on the timing of the break to the season and the amount of moisture in the subsoil.
Mr Lamond said wheat would again be the dominant crop for the region.
"The area of crop will probably drop back to historical averages as little ground was left to fallow in 2021," he said.
"Growers are planning to concentrate on their better set-up paddocks to keep the lid on input costs."
For Albany West, there is likely to be more canola sown and a shift out of barley to wheat by up to 25pc.
Growers are planning to sow slightly more lupins and keep more area to pasture.
There is still a reasonable tonnage of undelivered grain in the zone.
There may be less faba beans grown this year in the Albany south region.
Mr Lamond said the canola area should be at least similar, if not slightly higher.
"Wheat may increase in areas where it performs better than barley," he said.
"Those with livestock will increase their numbers and pasture area.
"Due to the lack of summer weeds and high rainfall in November, medium rainfall districts have good subsoil moisture."
Most growers have locked in their phosphorus needs at $1100 per tonne but not a lot of nitrogen has been purchased to date.
Snail and mice baiting will be a high priority in 2022.
The overall farm programs in Albany East (Lakes Region) this year will be very similar.
No major changes are planned other than options to cope with a late break to the season.
"Some marginal paddocks may go to fallow for weed control and pasture areas may rise for those with stock," Mr Lamond said.
"Because of the weed issues arising from the lack of chemical desiccation in canola last year, there may be a swing to swathing to aid harvest efficacy and weed control."
There may be more legumes being considered as they are cheaper to plant, however pulse grain from 2021 remains unsold with poor market opportunities.
Mr Lamond said barley area may decrease, with more wheat and canola taking its place in the zone.
"High fertiliser prices have dampened enthusiasm for cropping in the Esperance port zone," he said.
"The timing and rate of the final nitrogen application will be difficult for 2022 and there may be more variable rate applications and use of liquid nitrogen products."
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