50mm rains hit Esperance

03 Dec, 1999 03:59 AM

HARVEST has come to a grinding halt in the Esperance region as graingrowers assess the damage from a bucketing, which last week poured more than 50mm on to some areas. More farmers are hopeful the rain will not affect grain quality, although there may be some downgrading. The rain fell in the wake of the region's recovery, following more than 175mm of rain in January this year. But its effect on Esperance's groundwater levels will not be known until about March next year. Local farmers expect anything from a couple of days to a full week's delay after two or three days of rain last week, which was in some cases accompanied by hail and lightning strike damage. Agriculture WA development officer Andrea Hill said the amount of rain received varied greatly, from about 13mm in the northern inland area around Salmon Gums, to more than 50mm at Cascade to the north-west and even four inches further up in North Varley. "For some in Munglinup, this is their third rain of the season and that is a bit of a worry from a quality point of view. The more rain you get, the greater the risk of staining being a problem for wheat or barley," she said. Staining, as well as sprouting, is a concern for Scaddan farmers Wayne and Brad Lewis after the recent rains, which dumped about 34mm in their area. They maintain optimism, however, with forecasts for warmer weather in coming days. Wayne said forecast improved weather might enable farmers to restart harvest, although he was concerned about moisture levels. "Harvest had been going along < the last week of hot weather hurried things along < but before that it was very slow," he said. "But we had quite a bit swathed so we still got a bit done." Mr Lewis said the harvest program was about halfway complete when the rains came. Canola, malt barley, oats and registered seed had all been harvested, leaving about 3500 acres of wheat, plus lupins to the effects of the rain. "We have grave fears for both sprouting and staining but, with a forecast for 35°C, it should dry out quite quickly," Mr Lewis said. "We're quite confident it will be okay, but there will definitely be some downgrading in the quality of the crop < there will be a substantial loss in protein and hectolitre weight." Ros and Paul Carmody of Maryland Too, Cascade, had 56mm last week. Mrs Carmody said the extent of the damage would not be known until harvest started again and the grain was delivered. "We were only a third of the way through our harvest program," she said. "But it may not be as disastrous as they are making out." In Dalyup, Bob Stead said he and his son Simon, who farms at Cascade, were lucky to get about half of the total crop off before the rain. "We've had just on two inches over two days and we've got about 1000 acres of swathed barley, but luckily it's all Stirling so it shouldn't sprout too soon," Mr Stead said. "We haven't taken any off at Dalyup but, at Taddington (in Cascade), we've only got lupins to harvest. "It will be at least a week (before we get back into it). If it warms up and dries off, we'll swath the wheat and let that dry on the ground." Mel and Glen Lay, who farm at Neridup, said the rain had certainly put a dampener on their harvest program. Luckily, they harvested their wheat in November. "We had 23.5mm up to Wednesday last week, but I haven't checked the gauge since," Mrs Lay said. "We were probably at least a quarter complete (before the rain)," she said. To add insult to injury, Bill and Lika Guest, Salmon Gums, also lost 34ha of a wheat crop to fire after a lightning strike the previous Friday night. Mrs Guest said an assessor had just been out the farm to assess the damage. "We've had pretty well close to 11mm < which is not as much as closer to Esperance," said Mrs Guest. Mrs Guest said, while some staining was apparent, it should not be enough to downgrade the grain. They were hoping to restart harvest later this week. "We just hope the sun comes out and the wind comes up so we can get back into it," Mrs Guest said. Rowan and Chantal Spittle, who contract in the Condingup area, have seen the rain put a stop to their swathing. Mr Spittle said they had 37.5mm of rain on their property. He said some people's crops had been damp for several days. "No-one knows yet what will happen (to the quality). Sprouting of wheat is a risk and Karen Ryan's property, West Point, received just over an inch of rain," he said. "Everything's just come to a screeching halt," Mrs Ryan said. "We've just had too much rain and everyone is ready to go. "We had started harvesting < we were almost halfway (through the harvest program) at West Point." Mrs Ryan said it would probably be about a week before harvest was underway again.


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