Australian agriculture faces a wet spring

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21 July 2022, AU: Eastern Australia is bracing for a wet spring, adding to the already saturated ground in large parts of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland and potentially disrupting cattle markets and grain harvests.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is forecasting wetter than usual conditions for August-October, increasing the likelihood of cooler conditions for the eastern two-thirds of Australia.

A higher than average rainfall through the spring months could see a release in pressure on the northern heavy feeder price because of cattle availability.

Although June saw below-average rainfall for northern NSW, producers are still struggling with waterlogged pastures and paddocks from heavy rainfall early this year. Producers located along the Northern Rivers in NSW have recorded more than 2,500mm of rain since January. These farmers will see production losses as the most recent drop of calves struggle in the wet and cold conditions.

Some parts of the Darling Downs region of Queensland have recorded over 500mm of rain from January-July compared with a usual average of just over 300mm. The usual sorghum harvest on the Darling Downs will come to an end in May, although with increased rainfall, some farmers were still harvesting in late June.

Excess rain on a mature ripe grain crop will cause sprouting, which decreases yields, causing the grain to be downgraded and often diverted from export to domestic markets like livestock and poultry feed. Increased rain at the later stages of a grain crop creates tougher conditions for harvest, with wet boggy fields. There were more lower-quality grains produced during the 2021 NSW harvest as a result of the increased rainfall.

The BoM has said there is a 50pc chance of La Nina returning in late 2022, with a likely development of a negative Indian ocean dipole. Full water catchments will struggle to handle continued rainfall into 2023, with an increased chance of flooding.

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