All eyes on the skies for a big drop

22 May, 2016 01:00 AM
Albert Shadbolt (left) and son Ian, Mukinbudin, have had a great 2016 seeding with plenty of moisture and are hopeful of more rain this weekend.
Albert Shadbolt (left) and son Ian, Mukinbudin, have had a great 2016 seeding with plenty of moisture and are hopeful of more rain this weekend.

HOPES are high that a predicted cold front will deliver good rains to WA's Wheatbelt this weekend.

And on farms, where programs are nearly completed, it has triggered round-the-clock work this week to avoid sowing into paddocks that only need between five to 15 millimetres to become "soupy".

While farmers in the northern Wheatbelt will take as much as the front can deliver, the majority of the Wheatbelt has been humming along nicely on the back of good Easter rains.

There are plenty of reports of bogged seeding rigs, particularly in the Great Southern, while one east Hyden farmer reported delaying sowing 560 hectares of barley that should have been planted in April.

One central Wheatbelt farmer will hold off part of his seeding program while he deep tills into moisture.

Overall, the start to the season is one of the best in decades, with good weed control allowing germinating crops to get away to become competition for mandatory weed germinations in-crop.

The April rains and warm soil conditions have produced bumper stock feed.

The downside will be expected crop damage in paddocks still holding full moisture profiles.

But farmers will take it, remembering granddad's saying: "You can always make money with mud."

Generally rain will be very welcome, especially for farmers sowing wheat into drying soil.

Binnu farmer Kyle Carson said that with 2000ha of wheat to go, good rains would be perfect timing.

"Everybody's hoping the frontal system delivers," he said.

"We started sowing canola on moisture on April 8 and haven't stopped but we're starting to chase the moisture, particularly in our eastern paddocks.

"To the west it's all OK and what is in will come out, but the eastern crops need a big drink."

Further east, farm manager Evan Reynolds said he had been dry seeding for the past four weeks establishing a 6000ha program.

"We're in no hurry but if the system delivers good rain, we'll probably work round-the clock to finish before the end of the month," he said.

"At the moment we're picking the cleaner paddocks to sow wheat and we're just going to have to wait to see what sort of rain figures we get."

Canna farmer Richard Sasse remained upbeat despite paddocks starting to dry out.

"We've only had 120mm for the year mainly on those Easter rains and the canola and lupins got away," he said.

"We're into wheat so any good rain will be spot-on for us."

Marchagee farmer Michael O'Callaghan said he had completed 90 per cent of a 7300ha program with soil drying out fast.

"Hopefully we get a good drop from this front because it will be perfect for the wheat," he said.

"We'll hold about 10pc of the program to deep till the paddocks in moist conditions before sowing.

"We got good germinations, we've had good knockdowns and hopefully we'll get good rains."

East Hyden farmer Craig Mayfield is working hard this week to finish off a late-sown barley crop which had been ear-marked for an April sowing.

"It's all we've got to do," he said.

"We couldn't get on in April and it needs to go in now before more rain comes.

"I would have liked to have finished a week or more ago but I had to stop numerous times to let the paddocks dry out.

"So far we've had between 260-320mm throughout the farm and any rain in the next few days will be perfect timing."

Kulin farmer Rob O'Brien said he would be finished his 2000ha-plus program this week.

"We have been lucky to be sowing into moisture and we've had two good knockdown sprays," he said.

"The sheep feed is amazing. It bounced up after the Easter rains and thrived in the warm soil conditions.

"Some people in the district have bogged seeding rigs but overall it has been a dream start."

Generally farmers along the South Coast would prefer two more weeks of sunshine, though there are parts to the east of Esperance where the soil is drying out, albeit from a full profile.

As one South Coast farmer said: "don't use my name, but it's bloody beautiful at the moment and we don't need much more".



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