Farmers take a front with open arms

27 May, 2010 09:45 AM
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York farmer Simon Boyle checks out subsoil moisture during a break in lupin sowing last week. Simon and his father David, have planned a 1000 hectare cropping program this year and with last weekend's 12mm of rain recorded on the property, are well on the way to finishing seeding. Photo by Ken Wilson.
York farmer Simon Boyle checks out subsoil moisture during a break in lupin sowing last week. Simon and his father David, have planned a 1000 hectare cropping program this year and with last weekend's 12mm of rain recorded on the property, are well on the way to finishing seeding. Photo by Ken Wilson.

WIDESPREAD rain last weekend and the promise of more to come, has delivered on hopes and prayers of WA's Wheatbelt farmers.

Some regarded the cold front as a break to the season while others saw it as another instalment from a petulant Mother Nature, reflected by sporadic rain events since mid April.

For those farmers with no subsoil moisture, the focus now is on follow-up rain to promote crop germinations.

That was certainly the case for Yuna farmer Murray Brooks, who has about 2000 hectares of seeding to finish a 5200ha program.

"We got between 15 and 23mm which was very timely," he said. "That will help us finish up by next week and hopefully we'll get good follow-up rains to really give the crops a kick."

Pindar farmer Mike Kerkmanns also was all smiles after receiving 17mm of rain last weekend.

"We're about a third of the way through our program and this rain should help us greatly," he said. "We're concentrating on areas where we know we've got some subsoil moisture so any follow-up rain will be ideal for other areas and also to help germinating crops."

At Eradu, local farmer Peter Barnetson was shaping up to start a wheat program this week after completing canola and lupins.

"We got between 15 and 23mm on the weekend and everything we dry seeded has germinated," he said. "It's looking good but we'll be looking for follow-up rain very soon," he said.

At Mullewa, Ian Broad wrapped up his program for the year after receiving 15mm of rain last weekend.

"I'm very happy and the rain is spot on," he said. "With more rain forecast in early June I think things should tick along nicely."

In the Central Wheatbelt, most areas received rain.

Bullfinch farmer Paul Geurini received about 22mm of rain on his property over the last week setting up a good start to the season.

Paul, who is planting about 5000ha of wheat and barley this year, said the season was looking very positive.

"We've had a lot more rain at this time of year than last year," he said. "It's more than we expected."

At Bencubbin, Nick Gillett reported rain recordings between six and 16mm over the weekend.

"It's a good sign and very encouraging for all of us up here," he said.

With half his 6000ha program completed, Nick hopes to get the rest in by a cut-off date of June 10.

"We've been dry seeding because up until last weekend we had only received about 5mm of rain all year," he said. "It's too early to judge the season at the moment, the lack of sub-soil moisture is a worrying factor, but we're still hoping for more follow-up rain in the next week or so."

Beacon farmer Ty Kirby, is about 10-15 per cent of the way through his seeding program and said the weekend rain was welcomed.

"We got about 27mm and it was more than we expected but we are still hoping for more," he said. "We would like to be a little further on in our program, but it's been too dry.

"We will really get cranking now and try to put the rest in as quickly as possible and we hope to finish around mid-June."

Ty was planning on planting about 6000ha this year but the dry start to the season pared that down to about 5000ha.

"We cut out a little bit of canola and dropped our entire lupin program, because it just got too late," he said. "We prefer to sow on moisture, but it's just been too dry this year and there's not enough good sub-soil moisture.

"The season is not as positive as last year when we had recorded 100mm more rain in the same period and had finished about 25-30pc of our program.

"We put it in dry but there was good sub-soil moisture underneath so we weren't too concerned."

South at Tammin, local farmer Brad Jones, who received about 11mm of rain over the weekend, is three quarters of the way through seeding.

"We had to pull up a little because we were a bit ahead of schedule," he said. "We were worried that if the seed was going in too early there was a risk of frost.

"But now we are exactly where we want to be for this time of year."

Rain brought a smile to the face of Beverley farmer Andrew Shaw last week after more than 15mm of rain was recorded on the west Beverley property.

Andrew, who is the designated sprayer driver, was happy with the weekend's storm after receiving 20mm the previous week.

"We haven't stopped seeding and we're about half way through a 1500ha cropping program on this farm," he said.

The frontal rain was a welcoming sign for Lake Grace farmer Alex Duckworth, who farms north east of the township.

Last week parts of his property received 11mm of rain which will greatly assist his cropping program.

Alex was over a third of the way through his program when the rain fell on Saturday afternoon.

"We're currently sowing Yitpi wheat," he said. "The rain came and went pretty quickly but it has put us in a much better position than at the same time last year.

"We're way ahead in comparison to the 2009 season.

"We're putting in a 2400ha program and the rain has come at exactly the right time because ground was starting to dry out after the rain we got earlier in the month."

East Broomehill farmer Scott Thompson's cropping program received a boost of between nine and 12mm of rain after he started his 2500ha program last Thursday.

"We started sowing some Beacon canola last Thursday so we've had a bit of a head start on the rain and as it worked it was a very timely start," he said.

"It has added to previous rain events of 15mm in mid-April followed by about 6mm in early May.

"It gave us pretty good pasture germination so we started spraying paddocks for crop earlier in the month.

"That little bit of rain got the grass going but since then we've had a bit of a dry patch so we lost a lot of the clover from the paddocks.

"But the self-sown cereals and grasses have come up well for the sheep."

Scott said he had planned 70 per cent of his property for cropping this year and 30pc for pasture.

"Many of the pastures still don't have sheep on them yet," he said. "But in terms of the cropping program, we've started now and won't stop until it's finished."

Frontal rain activity was widespread with east Hyden farmer Craig Mayfield recording 11mm of rain on his property.

This month's rain put his 4000ha cropping program about a week ahead of last year's schedule.

"We're putting in roughly 380ha of canola, 800ha of lupins, 960ha of barley, 1500ha of wheat and 300ha of chemical fallow this year," he said.

"We didn't put in any canola or chemical fallow last year because it got too late before the rain came.

"It means that last year we started about a week later than this year."

Craig had finished all but his wheat program when the rain fell last Saturday.

"We've got about 1400ha of wheat left to put in so we should be finished by the end of the week," he said.

"We don't need any more rain for now but we might be chasing some follow-up in two to three weeks time."

He described the start to the season as average in comparison to other years on the farm.

"We always dry seed our lupins and canola," he said. "We're 70mm behind our long term average at the moment but we'll do everything possible to finish by the end of May."

Cascades farmer Will Carmody was happy with the progress of the season so far after receiving another 14mm of rain last weekend.

With about 35pc of a 4700ha cropping program seeded he is happy with his progress.

"It has been a very good start to the season for us with very useful rainfall events," he said.

Will started a 4700ha program on Sunday.

Scaddan farmer Gavin Egan tipped out 41mm from the rain gauge on Monday morning and 17mm the previous day.

He is over the moon with the 76mm he has received since May 14.

One third of the way through his program, Gavin has put in Faba beans, peas and canola and is about to start on barley and wheat.

Salmon Gums farmer Ian Guest also was happy to tip out opening rains of 21mm on the weekend.

Ian hasn't started his seeding program yet, but with this rain and more forecast next week, he's looking forward to getting stuck into seeding for 2010.

At Salmon Gums, Andrew Longmire was very happy with the first decent rain he's had for the year.

"We had a total of 30mm of good soaking rain over the weekend," he said. "It will be a big help to germinate dry seeded canola and some peas."

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