Ideal season for some


Much of Canterbury and the Hawkes' Bay has rejoiced in 'Goldilocks' conditions - just enough rain and sunshine to ensure an excellent growing season.

Other areas may face winter feed shortages as northern maize crops were hit with too much rain and it was too dry to germinate seeds in southern areas.

''We have had several extreme weather events bringing about 1500ml of water since winter,'' Federated Farmers Grain & Seed chairperson for the Bay of Plenty, Colin MacKinnon, said.

He and Federated Farmers Waikato Grain & Seed chairperson John Hodge say the maize crops on lighter soils are performing well and they expect yields to be up in those areas.

Heavier soil and hollows of rolling country show signs of waterlogging and are not expected to produce as much. Both said it was too early to tell if the harvest from lighter soils would cover lower yields from wetter areas.

''Maize prices look to be on a par with last year, but dairy farmers should note silage supplies are likely to be tight this year,'' MacKinnon said.

Southland growers were experiencing a difficult season with no rain between November and early January. This had affected the crop quantity and quality of autumn-sown barley and Southland Grain & Seed chairperson John Gardyne said straw was likely to be in demand this winter, with about half the amount harvested compared to last season.

The dry conditions caused some of his barley crop to shrivel and he expected yields of oats and wheat to be down. Gardyne said mills and farmers seeking feed grain would be forced to source extra from further north, because there would be a shortfall.

Demand for winter feed was likely to be strong because most of the region's swede and kale feed crops failed to germinate. Other feed crops would be planted but consistent rain was needed to make the most of the growing season.

Mid-January's rain was a drought breaker for most Southland areas, although more would be needed, especially in coastal areas. For growers in Hawke's Bay and Canterbury, the season could not be more different.

Federated Farmers Grain & Seed chairperson for South Canterbury and North Otago, Colin Hurst, said good rainfall, followed by spells of fine weather, was making the season, so far, one of the best he'd seen in 25 years.

It is early in the harvesting but the chairmen for Hawke's Bay and North Canterbury, Rob Foley and Murray Rowlands, said they were experiencing great growing seasons.

After a wet December, it was drying out in the Hawke's Bay and barley and oat yields look to be up an average of 2 tonnes on last year for many growers. Prices are holding steady. Foley says the season is ''one of the best in 10 years'' for barley and oat crops.

Rowlands said things were also going well in North Canterbury with autumn crops in good shape and barley, wheat and other dry-land crop yields also expected to be about double of last season.

''Storage is the issue at the moment,'' he said. While yields were up, the overall land area dedicated to grain growing in Canterbury had continued to shrink, so he expected prices to maintain their value better than in previous bumper years. Dairy farmers should get in early for winter straw as the low numbers of growers would restrict supply.

Things were also looking good for seed producers with plenty of grass seed and small seeds.

- Hamilton News

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