Australian government unveils huge upgrade to wheat harvest hopes, december 2016 The Australian agriculture ministry unveiled a huge upgrade to its domestic wheat crop forecast, citing favourable weather, including good moisture and a mostly mild spring. Abares, the ag-ministry's research arm, forecast Australian wheat production at a record 32.6m tonnes, up 35% year on year.

In September Abares forecast the wheat crop at just 28.1m tonnes. And the body downplayed both frosts in Western Australia, and quality issues in the east, two issues which have raised concern this season. Rainfall boosts yield "Favourable seasonal conditions in most cropping regions during spring boosted the production potential of crops, which were generally in very good condition at the end of winter," Abares said. The biggest increases in production are seen in the east of the country, which saw heavy rainfall. "Rainfall in September was well above average in most broadacre cropping regions of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, which resulted in plentiful supplies of soil moisture being available to crops during the critical period for grain development."

Rainfall did reach excessive levels in some areas of Eastern Australia, causing "flooding and waterlogged crops," but the drier outlook for the summer will aid harvesting, Abares said. Quality holds up Wheat production in New South Wales, the main wheat growing region in Eastern Australia, will rise 40% to 10.5m tonnes, Abares said, thanks primarily to rising yields. And despite the rains, Abares reported that "protein levels for crops harvested to date have been unexpectedly good". Quality in South Australia has also held up. "Quality in early harvested crops is generally around average and this is expected to continue," Abares said. "Protein levels were not significantly affected by the long maturing period and large yields," Abares said. But in Victoria, the "longer than average growing season and forecast high yields for wheat and barley crops are expected to result in below average protein levels this year". "This is expected to be partially offset by the use of residual nitrogen in the soil leftover from last year's poor crop," Abares said.

Cold weather a double edged sword Wheat production in Western Australia is forecast to rise by 8% to 9.5m tonnes, Abares said. "The average yield is expected to rise by 9% as a result of generally favourable seasonal conditions," Abares said. Cold weather in Western Australia has had markets on edge, with some expecting frost damage. But Abares said the coldness had not been entirely negative. "Severe frosts in September adversely affected grain development in some areas, particularly in the south-eastern parts of the central cropping zone," said Abares. But Abares said that crops further south "were less affected by these frost events because they were less developed and less susceptible to frost damage at the time". And the body also noted that "below average maximum and minimum temperatures resulted in crops developing over a longer than average period, which is expected to boost yields in most regions".

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