Rain brings mixed bag

15 Aug, 2013 02:00 AM
Quairading farmer Greg Richards received 28mm from last week's rain system, after recording 88mm in July.
Quairading farmer Greg Richards received 28mm from last week's rain system, after recording 88mm in July. "I'm very happy with how the season is looking," he said. "Things were looking very bleak until three weeks ago. "The crops and the sheep feed paddocks were really struggling up until that point."

FEW people in Perth would have realised the importance of last week's rain-bearing system which delivered mainly double digit rainfall throughout the State's Wheatbelt.

It wasn't as good as the 165mm at Karnet or the 158mm at Bickley but several districts scored more than 25mm with the majority of growers Farm Weekly spoke with this week reporting a good top-up 'Houdini" rain to escape a poor season.

It figuratively represented a wedge against a door swinging shut on the WA season.

There remains hope that given a good finish next month, most farmers will get over the line with a result, albeit, below budget.

Yield potential is now over and the focus is on keeping crops alive through, what historically, is the most challenging part of the year.

In the northern Wheatbelt, Ajana farmer John Ralph spoke bluntly about paddocks that would not see a header this harvest.

"That's what it is," he said.

"We recorded between three and five mills last week to add to the 20mm for July and the 5mm for June.

"Most of the district is suffering and we can only hope we get more rain soon."

At west Binnu, Murray Carson said crops were hanging on in what now was a survival scenario.

"We recorded between two and 10mm throughout our farms up to Ajana but it wasn't soaking rain," he said.

"The last decent rain we had was 10mm to 15mm on July 26.

"It started off so well with good rains in May but since then we've had just enough to keeps crops going.

"We hope we can average 1t/ha on the wheat."

At east Binnu, Piet Diepeveen said crops were going backwards.

"We had 3.5mm last week to add to the 11.5mm for July and 5.5mm for June," he said.

"Some parts of the farm are still looking okay but realistically we're probably looking at 1t/ha for wheat, 0.5t/ha for canola and 1t/ha for lupins.

"If we can fluke an inch of rain by the end of the month it will help but we won't get above budget this year.

"It is frustrating because south of us is better and there will be some good crops."

In the north eastern Wheatbelt at Pindar, Mark Flannagan counted himself lucky to receive 10.5mm on the home farm.

"It was serious gold," he said.

"It gives us hope of a good result but more rain is critical within the next few weeks.

"It has been a disappointing year with some of our better blocks recording only 100mm while others have had 55mm and there are strips that missed out on good moisture.

"But we'll get a result now."

At Mukinbudin, John Shadbolt was hopeful more rain would be recorded this month.

"We got between 17mm and 18mm last week which was a good top-up and the crops are hanging in," he said.

"But we need more rain soon and if we get a good finish we'll get an average result.

"The big story last weekend was four swans sighted on Lake Pope at Beacon.

"Somebody said they had flown there from Mukinbudin."

According to Tammin farmer Tony York, the 18-23mm recorded on the family property last week was a game changer.

"We're now on track for an average to above average harvest," he said.

"The rain has helped the crops recover from the setback of a dry June and there's a still good yield potential.

"But the northern end of the district, heading to Wyalkatchem and Koorda is looking ordinary."

The same can be said for large tracts of crops heading towards Southern Cross.

According to Marvel Loch farmer Peter Dunbar, rainfall recordings up to 20mm throughout the district did little more than spark some weed germinations.

"We had 15mm but it is just too dry," he said.

"It will give some cover on the paddocks hammered by the sheep and it will keep crops alive but it won't grow any more grain.

"Overall, crops in the district are looking poor with only a few pockets doing well.

"The rain would have been very beneficial if crops were in better condition."

Kondinin farmer Bruce Browning has been surprised at the brighter prospects throughout the district, not only from last week's rain but also from healthy falls in July.

"We got between 26mm and 33mm and we're finishing off spraying this week," he said.

"It has been an amazing turnaround since June when we were hand-feeding the sheep and preparing agistment plans.

"In July, we recorded 96-130mm and with this latest rain we can now hope for an average season.

"The feed has recovered well and every dam on the property is full."

Lake Grace farmer Doug Clarke, who recorded between 19mm and 26mm on his farm, said last week's rain lifted spirits throughout the district.

"We're not out of the woods yet, but it felt good to watch the footy in the rain on Sunday and celebrate a good win," he said.

"The crops are still looking a bit droopy but the canola is flowering and there's a bit more positivity around."

The same sentiment is evidenced throughout the Hyden district, according to local farmer Jonathan Burns.

"We got 24mm last Thursday to finish up with 29mm for the week," he said.

"It has filled up the profile and given us some breathing space.

"If we get a good finish next month it will be a handy year with crops well above average."

At Salmon Gums, Bob Burnside is hoping for an above average finish to the season after five successive hard years.

"It's an amazing transformation throughout the district this year," he said.

"We got 12mm last week to freshen things up and the crops are showing plenty of potential.

"All we need is a good soft spring."

In its August crop report the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) has pegged its production forecast at about 10.5 million tonnes, similar to the July forecast.

GIWA said while there was upside to the forecast for the Albany and Esperance port zones, the northern Kwinana and Geraldton zones remain at below average to average potential.

"The dry conditions across most of WA from June continued into July, further reducing the potential of the WA grain crop in the Geraldton and Kwinana port zones," the report said.

"In the Albany zone, average potential yields were maintained. In the Esperance port zone, rainfall continued through June and into July. Combined with above average rainfall since March, this has caused extremely favourable growing conditions in all districts, although with substantial waterlogging in the coastal districts."



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Rusty...A shearing shed on a small place, might be used a week to five each year. 50 years down
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No varieties of barley left in WA suitable for Craft Beer production and little research. Craft
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We farm at Beacon we had no rain last time .Since the 1st of Jan.we have recorded 45 mm ,6mm