Sowing starts for lucky few

28 Apr, 2004 10:00 PM
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WHILE most farmers are still looking skyward, some wheatbelt grain producers are well into their seeding program, with canola crops out of the ground and lupin sowing all but finished.

From Hyden to Lake King and out to the rabbitproof fence lies a green triangle that has caught the edge of northern rains passing through the Goldfields and delivered substantial falls over the summer.

Some patchy thunderstorms before Easter brought a top-up to the good subsoil moisture, allowing a fortunate few to get stuck into the 2004 seeding program.

Guy Coxson, who manages Chirs Henderson's property 5km north of Lake Varley, said they had completed their 1600ha canola program and expected to finish the lupin planting last Frida,y before deciding whether to make a start on barley.

He said ideally some more topsoil moisture would be needed before they continued, but at the moment they were happy.

Last week's front brought 2mm on Wednesday and, with the use of knifepoint equipment, that moisture had penetrated well into the furrows.

The property had received 22mm of rain in January, 69mm in February, 15mm in March, and so far this month they had 27mm. Guy said with the amount of moisture in the subsoil, crops could hang on indefinitely once they got their roots down.

The Hendersons had carried out one complete summer weed spray and had also sprayed emerging canola for vege weevil and bryobia mite.

They had planted longer-season Mistic and the mid-season TT variety 501, and although frost was a concern, Guy said they couldn't afford not to take advantage of the early sowing opportunity.

According to Lake Grace Agriculture Department district manager Amanda Miller, there also was a risk of locusts moving in on the young crops while the weather remained warm.

The department had carried out a recent locust survey with hot spots in the Jerramungup, Ravensthorpe, Esperance and Mukinbudin districts, where females were ready to lay eggs.

Ms Miller said the early planting for farmers was a sound proposition if they had good subsoil moisture, but even then crops would struggle if there was no more rain for six to eight weeks.

Esperance-based Landmark agronomist Quenten Knight said some farmers had made a start on cropping programs in the North Salmon Gums and Condingup area, but not a significant number.

"There had been rain right through the summer since November, and the most recent rains had allowed farmers to get on with knocking down weeds, but an actual start on seeding programs depended on whether you were under the right cloud," he said.

"Most people have good subsoil moisture and they only need another 5-10mm to get started."

The patchy pre-Easter thunderstorm had dumped up to 40mm of rain around Mt Riddley through to Mt Howick and close to Esperance, but generally, farms along the south coast from Ravensthorpe east had received lesser amounts totaling 15-20mm, according to another Landmark agronomist, Troy Bungey.

He said canola had gone in on some farms but had not yet emerged.

Both agronomists had seen a slight trend towards the use of multi-gene blackleg-resistant varieties such as Hyden and Beacon, and to a lesser extent Pinnacle, as a result of news of a new blackleg strain.

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