CQ growers plant barley for the first time in decades
THE FIELDS around the Central Highlands might have looked a bit out of the ordinary the last couple of months with a different crop coming out of the ground.
It’s been 35 years since Mark Sampson has seen barley planted on his property but some early rain, and almost the last lot of rain, provided the opportunity.
A second-generation farmer based 30kms north of Emerald, Mr Sampson has just finished harvesting his first barley crop.
Him and a neighbour planted barley in early April as there was early moisture and it was too early to plant wheat.
And the gods provided — they managed to get a decent crop and the price was really good.
“With the shortfall in prices it was above the market,” Mr Sampson said.
Prices sat around $380 per tonne and went up to $400, which it is still sitting at now.
He sold the crop in early September and found it was no different to selling wheat as he went through his normal marketers who sourced the contracts.
A majority of the harvested crop was sold to local feedlots.
“They knew we were growing it and wanted it so we didn’t let too much go down south,” Mr Sampson said.
The barley was used for cattle feed, mixed with wheat, grain and other crops.
Feed is in high demand at the feedlots at the moment as land is quite dry.
“They will take whatever they can get their hands on,” he said.
There used to be a lot of issues with aphids, a pest insect, which made some growers cautious of growing barley but this has now been addressed with different varieties and chemical treatments.
Mr Sampson said barley is quite a viable crop but previously there just hadn’t been a market for it.
“You’d have to transport it all down south and now the feedlotters realise the potential what they can do,” he said.
Mr Sampson has started harvesting his chickpea crop.
So far the quality is good, considering the lack of rain his year.
As some growers aren’t able to grow crops due to the drought, it is in high demand so the price is gradually rising.
It’s sitting round $700 per tonne at the moment but record prices in the last few years have seen it go up to $1,000 per tonne.
The last lot of decent rain was in late June and generally rain will come from the end of October to November, with storms for the winter crop.
“The only thing we have survived on the last couple of years is storms, not general rain,” he said.
But analysing the long rain forecast, it’s not looking good.
“We just have to sit and wait and be ready for it,” Mr Sampson said
Mr Sampson is expecting when it does rain, it will pour.
Another reason he planted the barley was to have some ground cover and stubble on the land, so it doesn’t destroy the top soil if he was to get heavy rain.
The last time it has been this dry was in the 90s, when the drought took a hold for most of the decade.
If this was to repeat itself, it means there would be another five years of drought now.