After devastating drought in 2002, Australian wheat and barley farmers
brought in record crops in the 2003/2004 season. The most recent wheat
harvest soared to a record 25 million tons, up 119 percent from last year's
drought-stricken crop, says a report released by the United States
Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service on March 10, 2004.
At 8.5 million tons, the barley crop outpaced last year's harvest by 130
This pattern of large harvests after drought-stunted years is common.
Wanting to recoup their losses, farmers sow more area than normal. In
2002, drought choked the plants feeding livestock on pasture land, and the
price of grain was high. Many farmers sold their livestock and converted
their land to crop land for 2003. On top of these factors, wheat and barley
farmers had an excellent growing season this year, with well-timed rains in
most parts of the country, particularly in Western Australia. All of this
combined to produce a record harvest this year.
The difference between the two years is clearly visible in this Moderate Resolution
Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image pair of the southwestern point
of Australia. A larger portion of Western Australia is covered with greener
vegetation in September 2003, top, compared to September 2002, a sign that all
plants, including grain crops, were thriving in 2003. The large images offer a full view of the expanded crop area in the southern tip of Western Australia.
The grain crop was harvested in December and January, before February's
heatwave and floods. Fruit and vegetable farmers did not fare so
well, according to news reports, which say that the produce cooked on the
plants in the high temperatures.