A swather cutting rows of canola seed for harvesting in a rural countryside cloudy landscape. Starting from May and ending in August, with temperatures dropping to as low as five degrees Celsius, winters in Australia are usually very cold. June and July are the coldest months with frosty nights.
The annual winter crops are sown in autumn and harvested in spring or summer. Some of the commonly grown winter crops include wheat, barley, oats, oilseeds, lupins, chickpeas, fava beans, and many others.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia reported that “winter crop production in 2022-23 is forecast to reach the fourth highest on record at 50.9 million tonnes”.
10 Winter Crops in Australia
Producing approximately 25 million tonnes of wheat in a year, accounting for 3.5% of annual global production, wheat is the largest grown winter crop in the Australian grain industry. It is grown for both human consumption and feedstock. Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland are the major wheat-producing states in Australia, with Western Australia being the largest producer and exporter. Australian wheat is exported to Asia and the Middle East including countries like Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Sudan.
Australia produces about 9 to 10 million tonnes of barley in a year. It is grown in the southern belt of the country and covers about four million hectares of land. About 30-40% of the average barley produced is categorised as malting barley, making the country the largest exporter of malting barley. Australian barley is popular worldwide and used specifically in the beer brewing industry and for cattle feed. Other than this, malted barley is used for confectionary, flavoured sweet drinks, breakfast cereals, malt extract, and malt vinegar.
Grown particularly in the high-rainfall regions of Australia’s grain belt, canola is one of the prominent oilseed crops in the country. Stretching from south-west to south-east Australia, and into northern New South Wales, the country is one of the major suppliers of canola, globally; producing 1.9 to 2.7 million tonnes of canola grain every year, Western Australia being the largest producer, producing approximately 40% of the country’s canola grain. This crop requires moist soil and is hence sown in the late autumn or winter season in the high rainfall zones and requires nitrogen and phosphorous fertiliser and other nutrients like sulphur. Canola oil has multiple uses- biodiesel and food use such as cooking oils, margarine, salad oils, and edible oil blends.
Initially known as ‘Goondiwindi’, chickpea is the first grown commercial crop in Australia. It is a prevalent crop in New South Wales and Queensland and is gradually becoming a widely grown crop in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. Desi and Kabuli are two types of chickpeas grown in Australia. Desi chickpeas are small, angular, and light brown in colour and are used for split peas or flour. These are grown mainly in Queensland with effective management. Kabuli chickpeas, also known as ‘garbanzo beans’ are larger than Desi chickpeas and are off-white in colour.
The first commercially grown fava bean for grain in South Australia was in the 1980s. It is now primarily grown in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, and also in other smaller areas like Tasmania and Southern Queensland.
Grown primarily in the southern and western grain regions of the country, field pea is considered to be a versatile crop. It is grown for human consumption, cattle feed, and fodder. There are four types of filed peas- blue, dun, maple, and white, each of which requires different growth requirements, markets, and uses.
Australia has a robust domestic and international lupin market. Being the largest pulse crop grown in the country, lupin is a major crop of the western Australian farming system, making the region the largest producer of lupin in the world, producing about 80% of world lupin. It is also cultivated in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. The two types of lupin grown in the country are Sweet lupin and Albus lupin, each of which has different growth requirements, markets, and uses. Lupin crops require deep, acid sandy soils.
Known for their premium quality, superior taste, and aroma, Australian oats are famous across the globe with Western Australia producing around 600,000 tonnes of oaten grain and 600,000 tonnes of cereal hay every year, the majority of which is oaten. Australian oats are used for making oatmeal, muesli and other breakfast cereals, health bars, bakery goods, and baby foods.
South-eastern Australia grows safflower as a cash crop under favourable conditions but it is relatively a minor and underutilised crop due to its small domestic market. Super-high Oleic (SHO) safflower has the purest individual fatty acid present in any other plant oils.
The vegetable industry represents more than 6% of the total value of Australian agriculture with more than 2300 vegetable farm businesses spread across the country. Winters in Australia require the consumption of minerals and vitamins and winter vegetables are the means to deliver the required nutrients. In temperate regions (including Coastal parts of New South Wales and Sydney), green beans, peas, broad beans, and English spinach are widely grown. Also, herbs like coriander thyme and garlic are grown in this region. In the sub-tropical region (including Western Australia and parts of Northern Australia), the widely grown vegetables include beetroot, zucchini, tomato, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potato, cauliflower, lettuce, pumpkin, and onion. Herbs like winter tarragon, thyme, and parsley are also grown in this region during the winter season. The crops that are grown in the drier regions of Australia include turnips, tomato, spinach, broad beans, broccoli, peas, lettuce, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.
If you are new to crop cultivation, you need to be aware of the insects that infest winter crops in Australia. Some of the insects are beneficial whereas some are destructive for your crops. Some of the common garden pests include Aphids that feed on vegetables, fruits, and ornamentals. There are two species of Aphids- cotton aphid and cabbage aphid. Snails and slugs can cause a lot of damage to your garden as they can destroy leaves, fruits, plant seeds and underground tubers. Other insects include small caterpillars that feed on vegetables, specifically broccoli and cabbages and stink bugs that are seen specifically in citrus trees. These bugs emit a foul-smelling liquid and burn the eyes and skin if it comes in contact.
For more information on winter crops, and other Australian farming-related queries, get in touch with KG2 for Australia’s largest farming database.