Dry spell puts

30 May, 2002 07:00 PM

to WA seeding

MOST seeding operations came to a grinding halt last week on the back of a prolonged dry period that has ensured below average rainfall for May.

While there's no panic, there is concern that germinating crops will start to suffer over the next two weeks from the lack of rain.

Many canola and lupin crops have germinated on April moisture and isolated showers in early May, and some farmers also have reported barley and wheat plantings have shot.

But the general picture is that farmers are now waiting for a break before resuming planting. And the waiting will provoke program changes with less barley and wheat being sown the longer the dry continues.

The immediate outlook for rain doesn't look promising, with massive high cells blocking out low pressure systems back to South Africa.

At Mullewa, farm manager Brian Lynch said seeding was continuing after 13mm of rain was recorded in mid-May.

"We're about three quarters of the way through an 8000 acre program and wheat is going in now," he said. "We've already had some germinations and lupins also are up so we'll need rain soon."

Morawa farmer David Croaker said a third of a 5000 acre program had been completed.

"We pulled up two weeks ago after getting about 16mm in early May to add to 14mm in April," he said. ""It's just really dry now."

At Carnamah, local farmer Allan Griffiths said his program stopped last week.

"We've done about a third and all the lupins are in and we need rain to keep them going but I'm not concerned at the moment," he said.

"I've seen no rain until the second week of June and still come out with a good crop."

Katanning farmer Barry Kowald stopped last Friday but was assessing his options.

"We've got some subsoil moisture in the stubble paddocks so I might start sowing wheat this week," he said.

"There are various scenarios around here with some guys still seeding because of bigger programs and others south of Kojonup who are still getting bogged from the April rains."

"We're searching for a shower," was Lake Grace farmer Gary Bungey's reply to the most asked question in the industry at the moment: "How are you going?"

"We've got some subsoil moisture but the top has dried out," he said. "That's why seeding has come to standstill.

"Pastures are starting to suffer but there's no real panic at this stage.

"I've got canola and lupins in and we'll be starting on wheat next."

Borden farmer John Stone said establishment had been difficult in wet and dry conditions "but what we've got in is out of the ground".

"Most guys in the district stopped last week and we're now looking for a good rain," he said. "We got away well in April with 41mm but we only got 7mm for May."

Gibson farmer Chris Hockey said that following a "perfect break" in April with 40-50mm of rain, there had been little follow-up in May.

"We're about a third the way through our 7000 acre program with canola in and up and lupins in," he said.

"Some of our heavy country is patchy and our lighter country is holding up well but we need rain for the germinating plants and the pastures.

"We've still got some wheat, barley and field peas to put in."



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