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Growing seasons in the Australian Wheatbelt

Most of Australia’s grain is grown in the winter season in the temperate regions of the west, south and east, and relies on the winter dominant rainfall patterns in these regions. The timing of growing seasons varies from region to region and planting and harvesting dates can vary from year to year depending on the timing of rainfall.

All states can commence seeding opportunistically in mid-April if there is sufficient moisture but usually farmers wait till late April when daytime temperatures start falling to more optimal levels. Seeding is usually finished in most regions by mid-June but some wetter areas can seed opportunistically well into July if required.

The harvest commences early to mid-October in Western Australia and Queensland, with the lower rainfall farms generally starting earlier than the higher rainfall farms. Sometimes the harvest in Queensland can be earlier, but generally only in a poor season. Other states (and higher rainfall regions of Queensland and Western Australia) would get the harvest underway in late October or early November. The harvest in wetter years can commence as late as mid November and finalise as late as late January, but in a typical year most regions will be at peak harvest in mid to late November.

Winter growing season by state

Winter growing season by state

The summer rainfall reaching the north eastern part of the Wheatbelt varies markedly from year to year, but can allow opportunistic double cropping in some years. The great majority of Australian grains are, however, grown in a single winter growing season, with roughly 90% of Australia’s annual wheat harvest being winter cropped.

Given the different climate in the northern part of Australia closer to the tropical climatic zone, Queensland produces the highest proportion of its wheat in the summer growing season (approximately half of production), with New South Wales also doing some summer cropping. Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are almost exclusively winter cropping states.

Comparison of average annual areas sown in the winter and summer growing season, 1991-92 to 2010-11

Comparison of average annual areas sown in the winter and summer growing season, 1991-92 to 2010-11

Sources: Australian Oilseeds Federation, Sydney; Pulse Australia, Sydney; ABS, Canberra; ABARES.

References and data sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Historical Climate Data, 2012
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics, Selected Agricultural Commodities Data Series, 2012
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics, Crops and Pastures Data Series, 2012
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics, Agricultural Land Use and Selected Inputs Data Series, 2012
  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Agricultural Commodities Statistics, 2012