High yields in difficult season a credit to NZ’s arable farmers

30 April, 2020

Yields for the 2020 harvest are up 16 percent across the board when compared to 2019, the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey shows.

Particularly encouraging was the fact fewer hectares were planted in total this season compared to last (98,090 ha vs 104,000) yet tonnes harvested were substantially up (873,080 vs 796,700), Federated Farmers Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

“This is in despite of a severe early season hailstorm, flooding in some regions and some pretty variable weather.  It just highlights that our arable farmers are world class,” Brian said.

“Some caution is needed when comparing the 2020 harvest with 2019 because last year was pretty poor.  But when you get results such as a 17.7 percent increase in feed wheat despite a 6 percent decrease in hectares planted, and a 31 percent increase in harvested milled wheat from only a 13 percent increase in hectares planted, that’s really pleasing.”

There is demand for locally-produced milling wheat and growers have responded by planting more hectares.

“I think there is also a recognition from growers that many modern milling varieties are performing well in their rotation, and this is supported by the good lift in yields seen this season.”

The survey results, released this week, also provide a broad indication of farmers’ autumn planting intentions.  As at 1 April, the survey indicated that feed wheat and feed barley plantings were going to be down on previous years.  But milling wheat, milling oats and malting barley planting indications are for an increase. 

The feed shortage issues many livestock farmers are facing with the double hit of drought and COVID-19-related meat plant processing delays have been well publicised.  Feed wheat/barley is a nutritious supplementary feed option heading into winter/spring but it requires careful management to prevent acidosis. Talk to your vet or advisors on the viability of feeding grain.

“There are willing buyers in the market and we expect that the 118,000 tonnes of uncontracted feed wheat and 126,000 tonnes of feed barley as at 1 April will soon find a home,” Brian said.

“Anecdotally arable farmers report that grain has been selling since the AIMI survey was completed, so there may now be less uncontracted stocks.”

MPI and partner agencies DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, AgFirst and Federated Farmers, are offering free feed planning support to farmers and livestock owners in all parts of the country.  This is not just about the now but also future options and ongoing support.

The AIMI survey report noted that carry-over stocks (both sold and unsold) of feed wheat and feed barley were low. Unsold stocks on hand of last year’s feed wheat and feed barley crops were 0.7% and 2.2% of the 2019 harvest tonnages, respectively.

Autumn/winter sowings of feed wheat are predicted to be down by 2,200 hectares on predicted sowings a year ago, with feed barley down by 3,200 ha, milling wheat up by 1,500 ha, malting barley up 1,200 ha, milling oats up 800 ha, and feed oats down 900 ha. However, these predictions are based mostly on intentions as over all six crops, only 8% had been sown by 1 April 2020.