FLOODING and hail has caused widespread crop damage in large parts of Western Australia.
A slow-moving front made its way through the eastern wheatbelt, great southern and south coast areas over the past weekend, with rain of more than 100 millimetres recorded in some districts.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Condingup West received 122mm up until 9pm on Sunday night, and areas in the eastern wheatbelt had crops flattened by hail.
Some of the other bigger falls recorded in the 24-hour period up until 9am Monday included 120mm at Kukerin, 79mm at Mt Barker, 82mm at Telina Downs and 53mm at South Stirling.
Crops in the eastern and central wheatbelt were also hit by hail, and thousands of acres of crops were flattened in the Yorkrakine-Wyalkatchem-Dowerin areas.
The hail hit crops in a strip down through Konnongorring, then crossed over between Dowerin and Wyalkatchem and headed east through Yorkrakine.
With the potential for more rain later in the week, growers are sweating on the forecast.
Most growers were of the opinion there would be quality issues from the rain, but won’t know the full impact until the crop starts coming off.
West River farmer Andy Duncan said he received between 55-65mm.
He said it was too early to tell what damage it might do to crops.
“There are parts of the farm where crop is down, but we might be fortunate that the quality issues won’t be too bad,” he said.
“My biggest concern is that there is talk of another rain coming through on Thursday and when you get more moisture on top of these crops that is when you get the sprouting issues and so on.
“Our wheat was at the final stage of maturity, so we will just have to wait and see what will happen with that and hopefully the predicted rain later in the week doesn’t eventuate.”
Looking at downgrades
Farm consultant Mae Connelly, Farmanco, is based at Lake Grace and said they received 50mm over the weekend.
“We were lucky in a way as areas to the north of us, through Tarin Rock and Kukerin, received up to 100 millimetres,” she said.
“The crops had turned here, so there are going to be quality issues.
“Probably 10-20 per cent of the wheat was still a little green, so that will be okay but the rest will be looking at downgrades.”
Ms Connelly said yields were looking fantastic and it had been set up to be one of the best years ever in the area.
“The cost is going to be huge, there is a $70 spread between APW and feed wheat and $60 between top grade barley and feed at the moment,” she said.
Ashton Gray is a consultant for ConsultAg and his family farm at Tarin Rock.
He said the Tarin Rock property had received 100mm.
“It is too early to tell what the extent of the damage may be,” he said.
“There are parts of the crops that are flattened from the water flow, but we probably won’t know the full extent of quality issues for another few weeks.
“Harvest hadn’t really started and the crops in the area were in the latter stages of ripening so the wheat may be okay, but we certainly don’t want any more rain later this week.”
Dumbleyung Shire president Gordon Davidson said there was anywhere from 50-150mm recorded across the shire.
“There has been a lot of damage to roads and fences and we are out clearing all that up,” he said.
“We had to close quite a few roads in the district on Sunday due to flooding but they are all open now.”
Mr Davidson said in terms of impact on crop, it was too early to say what the final damage would be.
“Crops on water courses were flattened, but generally crops across the shire are standing and so hopefully that will limit the damage,” he said.
“We are just hoping that the forecast rain later in the week doesn’t eventuate as that is when quality issues would really set in.”
Ugly has been the word used to describe the situation in the Esperance region.
Rainfall totals varied across the region from 15mm up to 120mm, and local agronomist Phil Smyth said early indications were there would be widespread quality issues and no benefit to any crops in the region.
“A large portion of the crops in the area were at full maturity and harvest had already started in some parts,” Mr Smyth said.
“Early indications for what had been harvested was that protein was high in the wheat and it was going Hard 2, which is unusual for this area.
“This has obviously put a hold on harvest down here now and they probably won’t get into it for another week.
“The talk of another rain coming later this week is the last thing needed as that will only exacerbate quality issues, as it is believed a second rain always fires things up in terms of sprouting and so on.
“Generally it has been a disappointing year in the area and this is just another blow. But the driers will come out now and at least the guys down here know how to deal with moisture issues at harvest time,” he said.
Salmon Gums grower Andrew Longmire said they had received anywhere from 50mm to 75mm across their property.
“There has been a bit of localised flooding but the majority of the crops are still standing which is good,” he said.
“I have heard of a bit of hail damage in the area but we escaped that.
“The barley will get staining from this, but the wheat was still pretty soft and hadn’t fully ripened so hopefully the damage will be limited.
“We had started harvesting barley and it wasn’t coming off too badly. We won’t know what the full impact will be until we can get the header in again when it dries out.”
At Corrigin, Wes Baker said they escaped relatively unscathed compared to some areas, with 37mm received.
Like others he said it was too early to tell what damage may have been done.
“We didn’t get any hail which was fortunate,” he said.
“The main damage will probably be in the canola and we had 170 hectares of hay on the ground, which will be devalued by 25 per cent.
“We had dessicated some of our canola and that would have gone this week and the barley was nearly ready to go.”
Out in the far eastern wheatbelt there was a variance in falls with Merredin townsite receiving 52mm, but some properties south of Bodallin received only 7-8mm.
Landmark agronomist Dani Whyte said there had been some hail damage but only isolated cases.
“Crops will be affected in some way, but until the headers get going again and get into the crops we won’t know what the extent will be,” she said.
“Harvest was underway out here, with barley, canola and lupins coming off, but there will be a bit of lull for the next few days while crops dry out.”