The 2020-21 season kicked off in an unusual fashion with a dramatic disease outbreak that affected people rather than plants. New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown
on 25 March 2020 for five weeks in an effort to stop the Covid-19 virus spreading throughout the country. Agricultural activities were seen as an essential service and were able to continue. However, many related businesses were unable to operate during this time. Fortunately, the only casualty to CPT trials was the autumn feed wheat trial at Balfour which could not be drilled into the grower’s field in time to match the surrounding crop management.
Southland, along with the majority of other regions, experienced a mild and dry autumn that allowed many crops to be drilled in a timely manner. Mild weather continued through winter, which was New Zealand’s warmest on record. Below normal soil moisture levels were common in many areas as a result of lower than average rainfall throughout the season. Some Canterbury growers had to irrigate crops to assist with emergence.
There was some respite for dryland crops with average to above average rainfall occurring in many regions over the summer, although this was not always sufficient to improve soil moisture.
Summer solar radiation levels varied between average and below average at the trial sites, partly because of the summer rainfall events and partly because of the humid cloudy days that continued into ripening and prolonged harvest. The average to below average solar radiation impacted on yield potential in some locations. Summer temperatures were near average for the majority of New Zealand, although above average temperatures in parts of the North Island, Tasman, Canterbury and Otago would have hastened maturity and reduced the grain fill period.
Overall feed and milling wheat yields were similar to the 4-year mean in Canterbury. Timely rain in Southland improved autumn sown feed wheat yields, but lack of rain in the Manawatu produced yields lower than the 4-year mean.
Barley yields were also similar to the 4-year mean at dryland trials in Southland and South Canterbury thanks to some timely rainfall, but were below the 4-year average in Mid Canterbury, with irrigation.