By Nathan Smith
2019 Australian alfalfa harvest is expected to be at the lowest level for quite some time, early indications are for the total estimated Australian crop volume to be down by about 40% on last year. This is a primarily a result of growers shifting to hay production on the back of the strong demand and high prices of hay above $400/mt due to the recent drought conditions experienced in New South Wales and Queensland.
At this point in time dryland seed crops are usually well into flowering but with lack of spring rainfall resulting in low sub soil moisture levels and frost in November, majority of growers have aborted seed production, turning these paddocks into finishing lambs to retaining breeding stock with the continued high prices livestock and demand for forage.
Irrigated stands that are going through for seed production started to be shut up for seed production in the starting last week of November and will continue through to third week of December. Warm consistent weather over the next three months will be critical to maximize seed volume produced from the reduced area.
Insect levels thought the spring saw increased number of aphid and native bud worm causing more of an issue on dryland stands during that time. With the reduced area going for seed it will be interesting to see what the insect pressure levels will do during the critical stage from bud development through to seed maturity. I expect growers will be able to cover their area in a timelier manner and spray at the desired times.