A BUMPER $1.8 billion grain harvest is expected to help bolster the South Australian economy this Christmas.
State Government estimates to be released this week are expected to show a six-million-tonne grain crop will be harvested in SA this year.
Though down from the July estimate of 6.9 million tonnes, it will be one of the most valuable crops in the state's history because of the rare occurrence of high international prices and average cropping yields.
While the high prices will make it more valuable than many years, it is still a long way from the record $3.4 billion harvest for 10.3 million tonnes in 2010-11.
Primary Industries and Regions SA grain industry development manager Dave Lewis said this year's crop was an achievement compared with 1988 which had similar levels of rain and only produced two million tonnes of grain.
"We are getting 50 per cent more grain with the same amount of growing season moisture because of improvements in technology and crop husbandry ... ," Mr Lewis said.
"Another big change is the timing of sowing, with modern equipment letting the farmer sow his crop in two to three weeks, whereas it would have taken five or six weeks in the 1980s."
Crystal Brook farmer Malcolm Sargent said constant improvements in technology and more land had helped him stay in business by lifting production from 500 tonnes to 5000 tonnes of grain a year, without employing extra workers, since he started grain farming in 1970.
"We are growing far more grain per millimetre of rain than we did when I started because ironically, drought years force people to change rapidly to make use of the available moisture," he said.
"I remember former BHP chairman Sir Arvi Parbo saying that being in business is like walking up a down escalator. If you stand still you go backwards."
His son Andrew Sargent said the use of ever-larger machines had its limitations in paddocks in the Crystal Brook area.
He expected automated or robotic machinery might be the next big advance, because it would help offset the difficulty in finding enough farm workers.
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