Quality a concern as harvest ramps up

29 Oct, 2015 01:00 AM
he quality is still good so far and we are seeing a little bit of frosted grain out there

GERALDTON port zone growers are already a quarter of the way through harvest this week but grain quality is proving a concern.

Frost damage is becoming apparent in much of the Geraldton zone and CBH Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray said the region may struggle to reach his predicted 2.4 million tonnes this harvest.

"There is certainly visible signs of frost and there's a wide spread of grain quality coming in, in regards to H2, and H2 all the way to low protein," he said.

"The proteins are very inconsistent.

"I think we're going to see, in three weeks time when growers start to run out of good quality grain, there's going to be some frustration because there's not anything to blend with."

Mr Gray said with a quarter of the harvest delivered for his region, growers were finishing canola and moving into barley.

"This next three weeks will be hectic," he said.

"The quality is still good so far and we are seeing a little bit of frosted grain out there, but in general we're seeing some really good grain come through.

"The wheat yields are down and it's down a little bit in canola, but barley is up a little bit."

CBH figures as of Monday had 454,330 tonnes delivered to Geraldton, 155,839t to Esperance, 99,908t in Kwinana and 10,298t in Albany.

Growers in the far eastern part of the Kwinana zone, around Southern Cross, were hit with hail and heavy rains on Sunday night, causing frustration on the verge of starting the harvest (see separate story on page 4).

Rainfall also occurred with this system and 42 millimetres fell at Southern Cross, 21mm at Trayning, 26mm at Gabbin and 10mm at Westonia.

Merredin Rural agronomist David Keamy said the rain would delay the start to harvest, with many who planned to start mid-week having to reassess.

"Guys are still out looking at the hail damage and reports of what we've had is still sketchy," he said.

Mr Keamy said some canola entering the system from his area was recording 42 per cent oil and 0.8 tonnes per hectare yield.

"We really haven't got underway as such to know the yields yet, we know the dry September blew us out of the ground but there is still some good stuff around," he said.

Further down the Wheatbelt and into the Great Southern, Consult Ag agronomist Ashton Gray said he expected harvest to start in earnest in his region this week, with only scattered reports coming through so far that some growers had started on canola.

"A lot of our eastern areas got a fantastic start, through the Lakes and beyond with good March and April rains in the vicinity of 50-80mm, which was an absolutely cracking start," he said.

"Back towards Narrogin they didn't get the early rains for the start, with the poorest performing areas being around Highbury, West Arthur and west of Wagin where some of their rainfall figures are worse than 2010.

"Most of the western areas have accumulated rainfall events slightly higher than eastern areas, but the guys who had crops in early were able to capitalise on the small amount of rainfall and quite often it was the guys further east who did this."

Mr Gray said he expected some "pretty ordinary" results, with poorly developed grain due to the hot finish and frost.

However, he said he could be proved wrong as the headers weren't in the paddocks and it is impossible to tell until the grain comes off.

"Near Kulin I've heard canola is doing 0.8-1.3t/ha, but out east they're going to have a well-above-average year around Mt Madden, Newdegate and average to a bit better around the Lakes district," he said.

"But once you hit the Rabbit Proof Fence and go west, it'll go down from there."

Poor growing season rainfall and a hot, dry finish has Dudinin grower David Kirby (pictured with dog Brax) worried about the quality of grain out in his paddocks.

He is set to start harvest in the next week or so at the properties he runs with his son Darren.

"The rain has been patchy this year and our best crops are at our other farm closer to Dudinin," he said.

"The two farms are 20 kilometres apart and since 2000 we've been seeing the rainfall decrease here but improve just that bit up the road."

The pair have put in 960 hectares of wheat, 700ha of canola and 600ha of barley this season in a standard rotation and Mr Kirby said he had concerns particularly for the barley.

He said there were visible colour changes within the crop which suggested there could be frost damage in addition to small grain.

"The barley crop looks like a 2.5-3t/ha crop but the grain isn't there," he said.

"Screenings will be a problem, if we get any barley above screening I'll be surprised.

"I'm worried about the size."

Mr Kirby said warm days and warm winds had turned the crops very quickly in late September following minimal spring rain.

This had also affected the pastures he has for his 1500 Merino ewes, Mr Kirby said.

Despite a poor finish to the season, Dennis (left) and Peter Gittos are expecting an above average season thanks to some early soil moisture gained from summer rains.

The pair are also counting their lucky stars they avoided the worst of the hail that hit their area recently, only striking issue in about half of their canola plantings that could equate to about 40pc damage.

"We needed a good finish and we didn't get it, things would have been very good if we got rain in September," Peter Gittos said.

"We haven't had too much rain, but we've just had enough."

He said on their home property they only heard the rain in the storm system that wiped out thousands of hectares of crop in his region.

After a phone call from a neighbour they checked their property the next day and said they were happy to find only a small section towards Newdegate was affected.

"Overall the season is above average and we're quite happy," he said.

"The average rainfall here is 350mm and we haven't had a hell of a lot of rain - only 150mm for the year.

"The rain just seemed to come at the right time.

"The western areas of the State seemed to have missed out where we got good rains out of the season and it saved us."

In their 6000ha of plantings, the Gittos' have a mix of canola, wheat, barley, oats and lupins and the pair expects good yields but have concerns for grain size.

"I think there is going to be small grain because of the cut off," Dennis said.

"I've actually pulled the header up to the paddock and got out to feel the canola and it feels as wet as anything.

"It just cut off so quick this season, everything was going along really nicely and then it got hot and suddenly we realised we better get ready for harvest real quick.

"We're all ready to go but it could be another week yet."



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