The golden harvest on Eton Vale, NSW, is indicative of good conditions nationally.

Photos Josh Smith  Story Mark Muller

An excellent season after years of drought has seen producers across the country working around the clock to get off an impressive harvest. Winter crop production in Australia was forecast by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to increase by 76% in 2020-21. For Will Winston-Smith on Eton Vale, near Rowena, NSW, the contrast to the 2019 season, when they “didn’t plant a bean”, could not have been starker. “We grow wheat, chickpeas, faba beans – this season we were able to put in 8000 hectares,” Will says. “In 2019 I completely forgot how exciting farming is and how productive the country around here can be when we get the rain.” Regular OUTBACK contributor Josh Smith spent time on Eton Vale documenting the harvest. “It’s a privilege to be able to celebrate the work,” Josh says.

According to the GRDC head of economics, Terence Farrell, the outlook is good. “The past three seasons have been poor, with virtually no crop in the 2018-19 season and low yields last year,” he says. “We expect that the 2020/21 crop will come in very close to the record 50 million tonnes achieved nationally in 2016-17.”

Terence says that growers in the south were able to switch some of their barley program into wheat and pulses in response to the Chinese tariff on barley. “We therefore expect wheat to come in over 30 million tonnes. Grain quality appears to be good, considering the wetter finish in the south.” Meanwhile, a 16.5 million tonne crop is projected in Western Australia. “Conditions are also shaping up well for the late-sown summer crop, taking advantage of good rainfall,” Terence says.

Back at Rowena, Will says that he is feeling buoyant, and that this goes beyond the farm gate. “There’s an economic multiplier effect of the harvest through the towns. 2020 reminded us all why we do what we do and why the area presents such a great opportunity.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #135

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2021