Above normal rainfall forecast bodes well for winter grain

Above normal rainfall forecast bodes well for winter grain
A forecast of above-normal rainfall across South Africa’s winter crop production regions, bodes well for this year’s grain harvest. Photo: FW Archive

If the forecast for late-winter rain across the south-western and southern parts of South Africa holds true, winter grain producers in the Western Cape may achieve their best yields since 2016.

According to the latest South African Weather Service (SAWS) monthly Seasonal Climate Watch report, the rainfall forecast for late-winter (July-August-September) indicated increased chances of above-normal rainfall for these regions, with drier than normal conditions throughout the rest of South Africa.

The SAWS said that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was currently in a borderline, weak El Niño state, and the forecast indicated that it would most likely remain on the border of a weak El Niño and neutral state during mid- and late-winter.

“With regard to temperatures, most of the country is expected to experience above-normal temperatures during winter, with the exception of below-normal minimum temperatures for the north-eastern half of the country,” the report said.

According to Ruan Schutte, agricultural economist at Grain SA, the rainfall forecast bodes well for winter grains such as wheat and barley, which needed good follow-up rain over the next two months, especially in September.

According to Schutte, the grain season in the Western Cape was “turning out nicely”, despite a rocky start.

“Most of the winter grain growing regions started the season with a very dry soil profile. However, since May, good rainfall occurred. At this stage, it looks as if the current season will turn out well. Nevertheless, it is still a long way to September and follow-up rain during [August] is critical for the winter grain industry, as it will determine the potential grain yield.”

Schutte told Farmer’s Weekly that if the Western Cape received the long-term average rainfall for September, the winter grain region could realise an average harvest for the first time in five years.

Dr Johann Strauss of the Western Cape Department of agriculture told Farmer’s Weekly that the average yield per hectare for the Swartland under normal conditions was about 3t/ha, and according to Casper Nell, agriculture advisor at Overberg Agri, 2,95t/ha was the average wheat yield for the Bredasdorp area in the Overberg region.

Grain SA’s production report for wheat per province, indicated that the average yield per hectare in the Western Cape for the 2019/2020 production year had only been 1,95t/ha.

In the 2019/2020 season, South Africa produced an estimated 1,5 million tons of wheat, which represented a decrease of 20% from the previous year’s crop of 1,9 million tons, according to an earlier report by the US Department of Agriculture.