Good rain for WA South Coast

31 Jul, 2014 02:00 AM
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PETER, Jules and Smith (9 mo) Belli farm north of Ravensthorpe with Peter's parents Glenn and Lynnell.  They're all very happy with the progression of their farm's crops so far thanks to 120mm of rainfall recorded for the growing season.
The change has been very dramatic for the crops as well as the mindset of local growers
PETER, Jules and Smith (9 mo) Belli farm north of Ravensthorpe with Peter's parents Glenn and Lynnell. They're all very happy with the progression of their farm's crops so far thanks to 120mm of rainfall recorded for the growing season.

SUBSTANTIAL July rains have helped South Coast crops bounce back following a less than ideal start to the season.

It's good news for Esperance port zone growers who missed out on much needed opening rains earlier in the year.

Esperance-based Farm & General agronomist Monica Field said the July rainfall events really turned things around for most growers throughout the zone.

Despite there still being some patchy germination within crops, she said the large majority were now starting to fill out at a rate of knots.

Ms Field had seen a range of rainfall recordings throughout the zone in the last few weeks.

She confirmed that some growers north of Esperance, at Gibson and Neridup, recorded 70-80 millimetres for the month so far.

Others east of Esperance, at Condingup, happily recorded up to 100mm in the same period of time.

"The change has been very dramatic for the crops as well as the mindset of local growers," Ms Field said.

"A significant percentage of farmers in the zone were really starting to worry about the impact of such a dry start, especially coming off the back of a couple of really good years."

Landmark Esperance agronomist Sam Repacholi agreed with Ms Field, saying canola and cereal crop development was well on track for a great 2014-15 season (all things going to plan).

She said many South Coast crops were at a stem elongation to flag leaf stage despite the medley of different crop types, sowing dates and environmental conditions in the Esperance zone.

"Of course it all depends on the seeding date," Ms Repacholi said.

"At the moment there are minimal post-emergent issues posing a risk to Esperance zone crops.

"We're only seeing very low aphid and disease levels.

"At this point we can only wait to see what the spring season serves up."

Earlier in the month, the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) reported that rainfall in the Esperance port zone continued to be well below average for the growing season.

It said April provided decile one falls, followed by falls on the cusp of decile five and six in May.

By June, the figures were back at decile one again.

At the time GIWA reported there was no deep soil moisture and a substantial rain was needed to boost confidence in the season.

June winds also helped to dry soils out further and growers were very cautious about the season and held back on their inputs.

It was reported that very little post-seeding nitrogen was applied as growers continued to wait for rain.

But all that has changed now with growers working around the clock to apply Flexi-N and urea in the wake of the July rains.

Crops on the mallee soils have been able to access some deep soil moisture and those in the Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe regions generally look very healthy.

Crops in the Esperance port zone also continue to be relatively weed free thanks to the dry summer.

While GIWA also reported it was expected that a single weed, nitrogen or fungicide spray might be enough to sustain crops in most districts of the Esperance zone this year, the July rains have some growers thinking otherwise.

Elders agronomist Courtney Piesse (whose clients farm at Cranbrook, Kojonup and Williams) said it was also a near-perfect season, so far, for growers in his patch.

While many Kojonup farmers are still battling overly wet conditions by enlisting the help of helicopters and fixed-wing planes to spray and spread urea, NS products, liquid nitrogen, fungicide and insecticide, others at Cranbrook and Williams are making do with tow-behind and self-propelled machines.

"A lot of paddocks are still suffering some waterlogging thanks to a one-day 100mm rainfall event some weeks ago," Mr Piesse said.

"Cropping conditions really are a mixed bag.

"A lot of the low country is still very wet and will struggle to produce even crops."

Spots at Cranbrook and Williams are very wet too.

"Some canola crops are at full cabbage while others are starting to bolt," Mr Piesse said.

He said cereals are from a five-leaf to first node stage and still had a lot of potential, especially with disappearance of waterlogging.

Elders Koorda agronomist Matt Willis said most growers in his region were very happy with the how the season had panned out so far.

Within the last month most growers recorded up to 50mm which helped some later crops reach a three to four-leaf stage.

"The majority of crops in this area are at the stage of stem elongation while others, like longer-season barley, are out in ear," Mr Willis said.

"Some Stingray canola crops around Koorda are flowering and will keep doing so for a while yet.

"Thankfully the opening rains we received in April provided some sub-soil moisture.

"Last year growers were holding on by the skin of their teeth and it was a stressful time.

"While there's still a long way until the end of the season, it's good to know the crops will hold up even without rain in the next few weeks."

He said the biggest risk to developed crops in his region was frost.

In the northern parts of the State's grain belt, Crop Circle Consulting agronomist Grant Thompson confirmed there were still a number of dry areas in the northern and eastern parts of the Geraldton port zone.

He said paddocks at Geraldton, Mingenew, west of Mullewa and Nabawa, as well as Northampton were looking really good.

"Northern growers haven't had one single significant rainfall event in July," Mr Thompson said.

"It's a bit hand-to-mouth in terms of rainfall figures.

"Most growers have recorded a number of single-digit rainfall figures just when they have needed it."

He credited opening rains in April, as well as a hefty June follow-up for the good condition of local crops.

"Things are ticking along nicely in most parts," Mr Thompson said.

"Hopefully that continues."

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