WA's dream start continues

30 May, 2014 02:00 AM
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It's little wonder tractors in the South West corner of WA's grain belt were getting bogged up to their axles last week. Parts of Kojonup farmer Bevan Gibbs' property received more than 100 millimetres of rainfall – 60-80 mm of which fell last Tuesday. Some of his neighbours recorded up to 105mm during the same day.
It's hard to disagree with farmers when they say they've never seen such an amazing opening break.
It's little wonder tractors in the South West corner of WA's grain belt were getting bogged up to their axles last week. Parts of Kojonup farmer Bevan Gibbs' property received more than 100 millimetres of rainfall – 60-80 mm of which fell

SINCE the Anzac Day long weekend, further heavy falls have been recorded right throughout all four WA port zones.

While growers in the Albany zone were in direct line of last week's deluge of rain, others throughout the State also tipped useful millimetres from their rain gauges.

Nobody could have predicted the near-perfect start to the 2014/15 cropping season.

Not only did it give farmers the morale boost they needed to forge ahead confidently with their seeding plans but it also afforded early sown crops an ideal germination window.

On the whole, crop pests and diseases have been largely kept at bay and growers continuedto plough on with their programs.

However, reports of immature byrobia mites, redlegged earth mites and lucerne flea in crops and pastures following their hatching during the Anzac Day and May 8 weather events had been reported to have caused some concern from Geraldton, Nabawa and Walkaway in the north to Narrikup and South Stirling in the south.

In the seven days before this edition of Farm Weekly went to print, growers at Kojonup, Frankland and Cranbrook busied themselves by cleaning up fallen trees and pulling tractors out of the bog thanks to the wet and stormy weather.

Last week farms on the Kojonup-Cranbrook border received in excess of 100 millimetres of rain – most of which fell heavily throughout the day on Tuesday and long into the night.

The Cranbrook townsite measured 66mm of rain, while Frankland recorded 62mm on the same day.

Despite the fact it was the South West corner of WA's grain belt which received the large majority of the falls, farmers in other parts of the Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Mid West were also happy to see the rain further boost plentiful feed for their stock and increase water levels in dams.

Last week Broomehill recorded 61mm, Katanning received 59mm and Arthur River, Narrogin and Woodanilling all received about 52mm for the week.

Cuballing recorded a total of 46mm, Gairdner received 41mm, growers at Yealering tipped about 34mm from their gauges and Kukerin averaged about 32mm.

To the north, Northam received about 34mm for the week, while Bolgart (31mm), Cunderdin (28mm) Bindi Bindi (23mm), Narembeen (22mm) and Eneabba (22mm) also recorded quite significant results.

While places like Belka (16mm), Gnowangerup (15mm), Wongan Hills (14mm), Merredin (11mm) and Bruce Rock (11mm) didn't receive record amounts of rain, they did get enough to keep tractors and airseeders in paddocks and smiles on farmers' faces.

Growers at Nabawa recorded lesser amounts of about eight millimetres, as did Westonia (seven millimetres) and Mullewa (seven millimetres).

It was much the same story in the Esperance districts where growers closest to town recorded about three millimetres for the week, while those at Beaumont and Salmon Gums poured five millimetres and three millimetres (respectively) from their rain gauges.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) grains innovation networks director David Bowran said just about every farm in the State's grain belt had now received 50mm-150mm of rain since the season opened despite the Esperance region being a little drier (thanks to the fronts coming from the north west and trailing out before arriving at the South Coast).

He also said some farms at Westonia were on the dry side after only receiving about 50mm for the growing season so far.

"Places that missed out on substantial rains last year have already picked up 75mm-100mm on top of what they received last season," Mr Bowran said.

"It's hard to disagree with farmers when they say they've never seen such an amazing opening break.

"At this point the large majority of WA growers already have crops established or should be able to establish a crop in the next two weeks."

He said apart from farms at Esperance and Westonia, there would be no need for a follow-up rain until the end of June – particularly for those regions which were now experiencing waterlogging.

He also said thanks to remarkably warm daytime temperatures (for this time of the year) which had averaged at about 22°C, established crops had experienced accelerated growth and were progressing fast.

But that also created some risk.

Mr Bowran said early flowering would increase the chance of frost damage come September and normal June and July rainfall patterns would also increase the risk of waterlogging in already wet paddocks.

"Growers will also need to be vigilant in their monitoring of weeds," he said.

"If WA keeps tracking like this, we could be looking at another record-breaking crop."

As Farm Weekly went to print on Monday, Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) senior climate liaison officer Glenn Cook confirmed further fronts were set to move through the South West Land Division on Monday and Tuesday but they looked to be relatively weak.

"I wouldn't expect too much rainfall to travel inland from those systems," he said.

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