Rain fronts maintain season positivity

25 Jun, 2014 02:00 AM
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The smile on baby Toby's face sums up the feeling of farmers at Kulin and the larger Wheatbelt beyond. His father Brenton Tyson (left) and German farm employee Mark Bauer are over the moon with the progression of the season so far.
At the moment the season is almost on par with this time last year
The smile on baby Toby's face sums up the feeling of farmers at Kulin and the larger Wheatbelt beyond. His father Brenton Tyson (left) and German farm employee Mark Bauer are over the moon with the progression of the season so far.

PERSISTENT rain and showers freshened up crops throughout most of the Western Australian Wheatbelt last week.

And hopes are high that a rain system coming from the Cocos Islands will stay on course to deliver meaningful follow-up rain next Monday.

For Esperance CBH port zone farmers, decent rain is becoming a must after the promise of last week's ominous front fizzled over the district.

In other parts of the Wheatbelt, strong winds ripped through towns from Geraldton to Albany, delivering much-needed rain to crops that were starting to show signs of moisture stress, despite the brilliant start to the season.

In other areas where good subsoil moisture remains, last week's rainfall totals provided a welcome boost to potentially high-yielding crops.

The strong cold front moved across western parts of the South West Land Division bringing widespread damaging winds in excess of 100 kilometres an hour and dangerous gusts of up to 125km/h.

Sheep graziers were also warned of cold temperatures, showers and strong northerly winds sounding a high risk of lamb loss.

By last Tuesday afternoon, farmers at Chapman Valley, Geraldton, Eneabba, Warradarge East, Badgingarra, Moora, New Norcia, Bolgart, Toodyay, Wandering, Williams, Darkan, Moodiarrup and Frankland had already received up to nine millimetres of rain.

Wind gusts of up to 80km/h battered farms at Badgingarra, Katanning, Cunderdin and Dalwallinu, while growers at Lake Grace, Newdegate, Jacup, Esperance and Munglinup experienced winds of up to 70km/h.

Farms close to Albany experienced winds of up to 60km/h while further inland at Rocky Gully winds reached up to 50km/h - so too did winds at Mullewa, Geraldton, Jacup, Rocky Gully and Salmon Gums.

Localities even further inland like Newdegate and Wandering were also hammered by near-freezing overnight temperatures of one and 0.8 degrees respectively.

By Thursday the squally weather had reached further inland.

Yuna, Geraldton, Coorow, Southern Cross, Westonia, Merredin, Belka, Kellerberrin, Wyalkatchem, Ballidu, Cadoux, Meckering, Quairading and Corrigin received up to 10 millimetres of rainfall.

Kondinin, Wickepin, Bannister, Williams, Narrogin, Kukerin, Lake Grace, Darkan, Wagin, Katanning, Gnowangerup, Jacup, Gairdner, Munglinup and Esperance also recorded a solid amount.

By Friday Bureau of Meteorology senior climate liaison officer Glenn Cook said most of the Southwest Land Division (SWLD) had received rainfall in the last week, however, away from western districts falls were generally low with totals of less than 15mm.

Further widespread rain was expected last weekend as another cold front moved through the region but the highest falls were recorded nearer the coast with only light falls of less than 10mm inland.

The strong cold front moved over the South West on Saturday, from the South West capes at sunrise eastward to Southern Cross and Esperance by the evening, bringing with it dangerous winds of up to 125km/h.

Over the weekend most farms south of the line between Jurien Bay and Hopetoun recorded about another 10mm which further contributed to the soil moisture profile.

"To this point in the month, much of the Wheatbelt has recorded 20-40 per cent of the normal June rainfall and more than 25mm is still required for the remainder of the month just to get to the long-term June average," Mr Cook said.

Hassell District Traders agronomist Dave Edwards, Jerramungup, said Saturday bought about 10mm of rain to the Jerramungup shire which followed another 10mm (in separate rainfall events) earlier in the week.

"We've had about 20mm for the week and farmers in the area are really happy about how the season is setting up," Mr Edwards said.

"Crops are well established and seeding has well and truly finished for the year.

"Most growers have done their canola top-ups and are now looking at topping up nitrogen with urea and Flexi-N."

He said growers in the area weren't looking for more rain at this stage and most were in a fairly comfortable position at this stage of the season.

"There are some little pockets around, including areas of the shire towards Bremer Bay, which have struggled for rain all year," Mr Edwards said.

"Some canola paddocks are covered right in and are looking really good despite going in later than usual because growers waited for weed germinations.

"At the moment the season is almost on par with this time last year."

But there were still patches of the Wheatbelt that need more rain.

Landmark Hyden agronomist Kirsty Smith said the most recent front only bought three to four millimetres of the rain to her clients' region.

Despite some of her clients having recorded up to 10mm, most growers were happily waiting for more falls.

"They're not overly desperate for heavy rain because the crops are still looking good thanks to the great start to the season we experienced in May," Ms Smith said.

"But we are still needing another decent rain to top things up."

Ms Smith said the Hyden region was lucky enough to have had two or three rainfall events in May which bought more than 20mm each time.

"On the whole canola crops in the region aren't too far away from starting to run up and the large majority of early cereals are tillering," she said.

"Later cereals which were put in last are at the three-leaf stage."

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