Time to think about sowing options for next season

Think about you sowing options. Recently sown paddock with rolling hills in the background

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With harvest finished in the north and under way in the south, now is the time to start thinking about sowing options for 2022. While the 2021 season has seen some challenges with a lack of input supply coupled with high input prices, that has been balanced out by high grain prices and a bumper crop yields for much of Victoria. A big risk for growers in 2022 is applying high priced inputs to paddocks, but having the price of grain drop mid-year and not see a good return on those inputs at harvest. More information on next season’s grain prices will be known with the northern hemisphere harvest mid-year; after growers have completed sowing in Victoria. 

However, inputs and grain prices are only one factor, there are other considerations when making decisions about sowing options for next season. Recently the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) declared a La Nina has developed in the Pacific Ocean, which means a wetter than normal summer could be on the cards for eastern Australia. So what should we be thinking about for our next cropping season? 

Crop Decision Making

Access to inputs

There are reports that current high input prices and lack of supply are expected to last well into mid-2022. Prices have increased approximately 230% with urea and 170% in DAP and MAP since November 2020, according to Thomas Elder Markets. It is important that growers begin to plan in advance and think critically about their rotation, including potentially dropping out poor performing paddocks or increasing their area of legumes. There are chemical and fertiliser orders occurring now for next season. There may be some uncertainties about whether those orders will be filled or possibly delayed. Any fertiliser decisions should be made based on soil tests. Growers are reminded not to cut chemical rates of herbicide and fungicides/insecticides despite the pressures created due to lack of supply. Not following label requirements of chemicals can lead to poorer efficacy and assists with building plant (weeds) and pathogen resistance. 


Soil nutrient testing is recommended when considering crop rotation options for next season. Testing for 0-10 cm phosphorus and 0-60 cm nitrogen and soil water will be informative to ensure inputs can be efficiently applied to paddocks and/or crop types which need it most. For areas in Victoria that had large biomass and high yields this harvest, there will be significant nutrients removed from the soil. If fertiliser rates remained high at sowing (areas with low to average yields at harvest, with soil of high fertility, could consider adjusting fertiliser rates, as the required nutrients will still remain in the soil. Good practice is to replace soil nutrients used by the previous crop in areas with low fertile soil. Some phosphorus, even in a low amount, is helpful to be sown with the seed; however it may be worthwhile to consider delaying up-front applications and expenditure of nitrogen to see how the season plays out in winter. Wheat and canola are higher users of nitrogen. If needed, consider legumes or cereals which require lower amounts of nitrogen (oats and barley). 

A wet winter and spring in 2021 has led to sub-optimal weed control in many areas of Victoria. Sowing options for next season will need to be considered carefully and the choice of pre-emergent herbicides that may be needed to control high weed loads. Low and medium rainfall zones will achieve greater benefits from storing soil moisture by controlling weeds over summer. Summer weeds will utilise soil moisture and nutrients, which reduces plant available water in the next season. Higher rainfall areas rarely benefit from stored soil moisture, as it can lead to an early wet winter, and waterlogging. Crop selection will be dependent on rainfall areas; low rainfall areas should consider all available rotations options and adjust inputs to yield potential in paddocks with high stored soil moisture at planting, while the medium rainfall zone should consider the percentage of high input crops in the case of a late seasonal break. High rainfall zones should consider not planting crops intolerant of waterlogging like canola and barley in low lying paddocks that have high levels of stored soil moisture.

Disease considerations

With a La Nina declared by the BOM, there is an increased risk of a green bridge over summer. The weeds and volunteer plants that make up a green bridge can host a range of diseases and insects, and once the crop is sown, these diseases can move into the crop. It is important that any volunteer plants are controlled, including those around silos and sheds, around 4 to 6 weeks prior to sowing, to minimise that risk from the green bridge. Wet summers mean there will be a high disease risk for the next season. Rusts in particular thrive in these conditions. 

The risk profile for soil-borne and stubble-borne diseases can be assessed using a PREDICTAB® test. PREDICTAB® is a DNA test which can be used to identify a paddock’s risk for disease for the coming year. It can determine what may have been an issue in the previous year and determine current disease management plans are working successfully. Tests will need to be carried out through an accredited agronomist. 

Seed treatments are a cheap and effective way to control bunts and smuts in cereals. Good seed coverage will ensure treatments are effective as bunts and smuts can cause grain to be unsellable (or only able to be sold for low value stockfeed) and infected paddocks can have an impact on growing future crops. It is also imperative that growers always monitor the latest disease resistance ratings. Keeping on top of changes in ratings can prevent significant yield loss. Disease ratings are released for Victoria in February each year for both cereals and pulses, and blackleg ratings for canola are updated in the Blackleg Management Guide, updated in Autumn and Spring each year. 

Keep an eye out on Field Crop Diseases Victoria website or Facebook and Twitter accounts for the most up-to-date crop disease information in Victoria when thinking about your sowing options for next season. 

Variety Selection

The 2022 Victorian Crop Sowing Guide is now available to assist with making crop variety decisions for the 2022 season. The Victorian Crop Sowing guide aims to prompt growers to ask, ‘am I growing the best variety for my situation?’ and is an ideal tool to guide conversations with agronomists and consultants when weighing up sowing options. New varieties which have been released in 2021 and will be commercially available in 2022 are listed in the guide, along with current varieties. The key agronomic characteristics are provided as well as updated disease ratings, and long-term National Variety Trials (NVT) data. NVTs provide independent information on varieties for growers with grain yield and grain quality information. 

Download the 2022 Victorian Crop Sowing Guide now to see what new varieties may be available and suitable for your region. 

Search for detailed performance data of specific varieties using the NVT long-term MET yield reporter or the individual trial results

Further Information

GRDC Green bridge factsheet

Learn more about PREDICTAB® testing

Australian Fungicide Resistance Extension Network

National Variety Trials


Dale Grey – Seasonal Risk Agronomist, Agriculture Victoria

Luise Fanning – Grains Pathology Services, Agriculture Victoria

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