Grain prices, looking to India, on-target spraying and remote scouting
The big picture for grain markets and the short-term price outlook were matched with on-farm spraying and remote monitoring technology breakthroughs at the most recent Elders Presents event for broadacre farmers.
Growers heard Thomas Elder Markets analyst Andrew Whitelaw explain that while wheat grain stockpiles are at an all-time high, the likely impact on prices would be negligible.
He said year-to-date imports of corn by China, which stood at 7 million tonnes by the end of September, had outstripped that of any full year before but the extent of its demand was still relatively unknown.
And, while the basis – or domestic premium – for local grain prices was falling due to swelling Australian production, Mr Whitelaw said it wasn’t all bad news.
“Strong futures levels overseas are buffering Australian growers from falling basis, the domestic premium,” he said.
It meant that the excellent seasonal conditions across much of Australia would be coupled with wheat and corn prices close to the 10-year average.
On the other hand, tariffs imposed by China on Australian barley earlier this year impacted prices of that grain immediately.
AEGIC’s Mary Raynes told the Elders Presents audience that Australia is continuing to engage with China, while focusing on maximising opportunities in Vietnam, India and Indonesia.
Ms Raynes said India’s thirst for 500,000 metric tonnes of malting barley each year was growing rapidly.
The 3.2 billion litre Indian beer industry was primed for growth on the back of the country’s surging population, Ms Raynes said.
“Of the 1.37b people living in India, ‘just’ over 200 million people can afford to drink beer and 22 million people drink premium beer,” she said.
India’s forecast 2030 beer consumption was 5.6b litres while barley production in India faced continued challenges.
Remote crop monitoring breakthroughs
Returning home, Australia’s grain producers could get a welcome boost by breakthroughs in remote crop monitoring, D-CAT cofounder Dr Smith told Elders Presents.
A new generation of satellite technology brought powerful early warning tools that can detect when a crop is frosted, or stressed from weeds or other issues, while optimising irrigation, fertiliser and chemical use with affordable variable rate applications.
Satellite images can be used to estimate subsoil moisture, provided there is a local in-soil moisture probe for calibration, and detect soil characteristics, like iron oxides and clay mineral composition.
“Because we’re not just looking at greenness or NDVI, and we work with Elders and their clients to really understand what’s needed from imaging, we’re delivering real benefits that save time and money, and increase productivity,” Dr Smith said.
Croplands spray application expert Dave Farmer explained the “Five Commandments of Spraying” that ensure chemicals stay on target.
Mr Farmer said that, aside from ensuring the chemicals were effective because they had reached the right plants, it was important to prevent spray drift from affecting other landholders downwind.
“The biggest known spray drift travelled 50 kilometres and wiped out 17000 hectares of juvenile wheat in Queensland,” Mr Farmer said.
The first commandment was not to spray during surface temperature inversion conditions.
In summer, temperature inversions occurred overnight, he said, when the air travelled laterally. The safest time to begin spraying was when the sun had risen to 20 degrees above the horizon.
Other weather factors that needed to be considered were the evaporation rate and wind speed.
The Delta T, he stressed, was only a guide rather than a definitive measure of spraying conditions.
The second commandment was to use the largest spray quality possible while maintaining efficacy, and Mr Farmer said these recommendations for 2,4-D had changed again this year
Commandment three calls for low boom heights, no more than 50cm above the target.
It was also vital to avoid high travel speeds, which should be kept under 22 kilometres an hour, and avoid using adjuvants that decrease droplet size and increase drift risk.
Videos of each presentation are now online