Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Harvest hit by early rains

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A spell of ideal harvesting weather has been welcomed but Canterbury cropping farmers are counting the cost of the extended wet period in December that is denting crop yields.
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Canterbury cropping farmer Chris Rickard checks on his kale seed crop being harvested by neighbouring farmer Eric Watson. Photo: Annette Scott

A spell of ideal harvesting weather has been welcomed but Canterbury cropping farmers are counting the cost of the extended wet period in December that is denting crop yields.

The lack of sunshine, heat and pollination is taking its toll.

“It’s certainly not shaping up to be a bumper harvest, average at best,” Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury arable chairman Darrell Hydes said.

With a good spell of weather over the past couple of weeks farmers have made a good start to harvest but yields and quality are down.

“Early ryegrass crops are disappointing; the cocksfoot was not too bad and the rape pretty good but these early crops are suffering from the wet weather when pollinating.

“Early autumn barley is only average and autumn wheat is not looking flash with a bit of hail damage and late disease setting in, again because of the December weather.”

Clover was looking good on his Methven farm.

“It was starting to dry out nicely but it didn’t need the rain yesterday (Wednesday),” Hydes said.

A spell of ideal harvesting weather was interrupted with rain that recorded between 17 to 37mm across the region.

Coastal farmer Chris Rickard is counting his blessings with six consecutive days of harvest before the rain arrived.

“We had the header in the paddock six days in a row, we have been very lucky to have our crops in the window that’s been.”

But Rickard is not so happy with the reap.

“The kale has been quite disappointing; it battled a water-logged winter and the lack of sunshine in December didn’t help.”

While he is still waiting on the weights for his fescue crop Rickard says he’s expecting, at best, average.

With cereal crops, peas, red clover, radish and spinach yet to harvest another spell of hot weather is wished for.

“Cropping farmers just want good hot, settled weather at this time of the year,” Rickard said.

South Canterbury cropping farmers are paddling the same canoe, with similar reports as harvest gets into full swing.

While crops look good, grains are light in kernel weight and yields have been disappointing, again with the wet December weather taking its toll on crops at an important stage of growth.

Federated Farmers vice chairman seeds David Birkett says one of the challenges for seeds this season will be the capacity in seed dressing plants.

“This harvest is one of our biggest certified crop areas so the pressure will be on storage.

“And that’s not such a bad situation – this is the first time I have had options in what contracts to grow,” Birkett said.

He encouraged farmers to communicate with their agents and seed processors.

Birkett says early crops have generally come off “pretty average”.

“It’s the lack of sunshine that they just didn’t get in December; early barley and grasses have been disappointing.

“Clover will be interesting after this rain. It’s just a wait and see now what the later crops will do.”

WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan reports a high pressure parked over Tasmania is going to influence Canterbury’s weather pattern encouraging more days with southerly quarter winds, therefore it may not be as hot as it’s been in recent days.

Daytime highs across Canterbury range from 16C to 24C over the next week, according to RuralWeather.co.nz.

The southerly flow at times will also mean a bit more cloud and shower activity mostly in coastal areas. 

Rainfall accumulation may not be great, but there may be a few cloudy-drizzly or showery days in the mix as well as mild and dry days.

Rainfall for the next week ahead is around 10 to 20mm for most places. 

The next seven days lean drier than average but there are shower risks for half of those days.

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