THE wet winter unfolding in northern and central parts of the grainbelt has given growers a confidence boost, with good prospects for a better than average season leading to increased on-farm inputs.
However fertiliser companies are yet to reap any significant rewards, as growers in northern parts utilise chemicals held over from last year’s dry season and farmers in the Esperance and Albany zones cut back on inputs as they wait for rain.
According to Summit Fertilizers marketing and promotions manager Sandy Alexander, fertiliser sales in areas surrounding Esperance and Geraldton were at this stage down compared to last year.
“Geraldton is interesting because I think there was a lot of nitrogen still on-farm, so sales are down a little bit – I would say usage is up but sales are down,” Mr Alexander said.
“Certainly Esperance is lower than usual, while east of Albany is fairly grim.
“Parts of the northern Albany zone are not wonderful but west is OK, so sales are probably on a par with last year.
“Kwinana is OK as well, on-par (with last year).”
Mr Alexander said while sales were not particularly high considering the wet season being experienced in a large portion of the State, several products were still in high demand.
“We’ve had the sort of season you’d expect, it has been reasonable without being spectacular,” Mr Alexander said.
“Urea and Summit UAN is continuing to roll out the door, so from that point of view it will carry on as long as the rain does.
“At this time of year demand is mostly up for nitrogen and some potash.”
CSBP Geraldton district manager Jason Ralston said along with utilising carry-over stock, growers had also organised to rollover contracts from last year which had influenced sales.
However despite this, Mr Ralston said there had been an increase in inputs, which jumped towards the end of seeding when the season broke.
“There was a lot of carry-over stock from last year into this year and also rolling contracts over where guys couldn’t take it, or didn’t want to take contracts from last year, that we’ve rolled into this year,” Mr Ralston said.
“The nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium stuff that went down at seeding time, that sort of increased at the end of seeding as guys put their whole program in, instead of holding any back.
“At the moment it’s definitely more nitrogen and potassium-based, so Flexi-N.”
Mr Ralston said there was plenty of optimism in the region, with rain gauges across the zone measuring between 30 to 90 millimetres last week.
The rain has left soil moisture profiles in good stead for the rest of the season and pushed growing season rainfall to above average figures.
“The main thing where most guys are at now is that they’ve got pretty good confidence that they’re going to at least have an average year,” Mr Ralston said.
“It’s really good for our customers to have the year turn around following last year – pretty well everybody from the coast, right out is in a pretty good position and they really needed a good season to fix the issues from last year.
“One of the big differences across the region is how consistent it is.”
This sentiment was echoed by Bill Campbell Consulting agronomist Bill Campbell, who works with growers in the Geraldton and Dalwallinu areas.
Mr Campbell said growers were being rewarded for smart decisions made throughout last year’s challenging dry season.
“We know how to handle these dry years without a lot (of rain), we were really reactive and remained positive and we know what to do when it comes in dry,” Mr Campbell said.
“We don’t spend, we’re careful about what we do and we try and get our way through it the best we can do.
“Growers are seeing those rewards now.
“I think some growers certainly have purchased more nitrogen but there was a lot carried over.
“There was a lot of nitrogen that was held back and there was very little top-up applied at all because of what the season was like in 2017.”
Mr Campbell said the season outlook for the region was extremely positive, with the year on track to be a “complete turnaround” from 2017.
“The rain we got last week, it took us three months to get last year,” Mr Campbell said.
“In the past, you get one big rainfall event and then you get bits and pieces, whereas since our first rainfall event we’ve been getting rain every seven to 10 days.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a start to the season like this, it’s really almost perfect.”