According to recent reports, around 22 million hectares of grain crops are planted each and every year in Australia. With the improvement in technology in recent years, grain production has become more reliable and efficient but the split environment still remains the same; the weather patterns have created a north/south divide during the two crop growing periods. Whilst some areas are going for one crop per year, some regions have the right soil and climate to produce in both summer and winter.
On the Whole
If we look at the country as a whole, we are now planting grain crops one whole month earlier than around 30 years ago and this is due to more summer rainfall, less winter rainfall, and various other environmental changes.
Ultimately, this is considered as southern and central Queensland passing through New South Wales and down to the Dubbo region. Since the majority of rainfall comes in the summer, this is when the grain crops are produced. However, farmers also see success in the winter because the clay-based soils hold onto moisture and they get help from small winter rains.
In the north, winter crops are actually planted at very different times as New South Wales go through to July whilst Queensland start in March. Therefore, the harvest and rewards of this are seen in September all the way through to the end of the year. For summer crops, these are planted from September through to February.
Examples – Whilst winter sees chickpeas, wheat, barley, faba beans, field peas, oats, triticale, and canola (amongst others), summer is known for sunflowers, sorghum, maize, soybeans, peanuts, and cotton.
Elsewhere, the southern region goes below Dubbo to meet Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and includes the wheat belt of WA. In the latter regions, winter is fairly dominant. Generally, the summer sees Mediterranean climates while the rainfall comes in winter, which leads to crop production at this time. Normally, this starts with the ‘opening rains’ in May with the harvest starting in October.
Examples – Typically, summer only really returns maize and irrigated rice but winter can be used for wheat, oats, barley, cereal rye, lupins, canola, lentils, safflower, vetch, and more.
In 2017, wheat remains as the biggest crop in Australia because it is important for pasta, bread, biscuits, and noodles. Although it makes up just 3% of the world supply, it contributes up to 15% of the world’s trade of wheat. After this, barley is also important with over eight million tonnes being produced each and every year. On the world stage, barley trade is huge for Australia providing just less than one-third.
Finally, canola is highly sought after since it is used as food-grade oil and sorghum can be used for consumption by humans or livestock. What we can summaries is that Australia is one of the leaders on the global market when it comes to oats.