WITH last year’s disappointment behind him, Bencubbin farmer Brendan Geraghty couldn’t be any happier with how this season is shaping up.
Last year delivered a devastating blow in the Eastern Wheatbelt with many farmers suffering from a dry season and a late break, which came too late for most.
With hard red clays and sub-marginal soils making up more than half of the 6000-hectare program, Mr Geraghty made the tough decision to leave out 50 per cent of it last year.
He ended up averaging about 1.5 tonnes per hectare.
“The half that we didn’t get in would have yielded 0.3t/ha,” Mr Geraghty said.
The decision was not easy and was made with caution due to debts and loans still hanging over his head.
But with almost no rainfall to break through the ground and establish a growing environment, the decision proved beneficial.
“When you have a farm to pay off and debts, it makes it hard to not put a crop in,” he said.
“If you don’t get your program in you don’t get the returns.”
But this year has been a “bloody ripper”, according to Mr Geraghty, with another 11-17 millimetres of “awesomeness” last Wednesday.
With three blocks between Bencubbin and Wialki the rainfall this year has already provided a promising 180-220mm.
“I think this year is going to be one of the most important in the history of the shires out here,” Mr Geraghty said.
“I think it was pretty close with a lot of people almost out of the game.
“Maybe not out, but on their last legs.
“I just hope this season really does work out for them all out here.”
Mr Geraghty started his season on April 6 after 15mm fell over the Easter weekens.
With the little bit of moisture his crops started to come up in April and didn’t receive another drink until the end of May.
As worrying as it was, Mr Geraghty said the crop was able to hold on through the dry period although he thought the cabbage affect of his canola may be limited.
“We are tracking nicely,” he said.
“It’s not too wet and it isn’t dry.”
With 300ha of canola, 2500ha of wheat, 1300ha of barley and 1500ha of chem fallow and pastures, Mr Geraghty said the canola was a big gamble to take.
“We are stoked with the canola – it’s beautiful,” he said.
“We have some of the best soils in WA because it holds the moisture.
“When it gets wet it will grow, but we just have to get it wet which is the challenge out here.”
Mr Geraghty said his heavy soils, which were left out of the sowing program last year, would really perform this year after heavy rainfall.
“I am so glad we left it out last year,” he said.
“I kept saying to dad (Chris Geraghty), when we got the wet finish to the year last August that we needed to have more in.
“But it would have taken longer for the tough clay to wet up before it even thought of growing a crop and it probably wouldn’t have come up until the end of August which doesn’t give a big growing window.”
Around this time last year Mr Geraghty has just started his first week of spraying.
He has been over some paddocks four or five times since the start of summer.
With heavy rainfalls over January and February this year Mr Geraghty has to spray any emerging weeds.
“That is our bread and butter out here I think,” he said.
“We need to preserve that moisture any chance we get.”
Mr Geraghty also struggles with the land which he calls “tiger” country.
“It isn’t really worth cropping,” he said.
But this year he has seen positive results from the soil with the assistance of lime sand, gypsum and a steady rainfall.
Mr Geraghty’s sheep also struggled through the summer and with 1200 breeding ewes, he was glad to see the season turn around.
“The sheep are fat,” he said.
“Over summer the sheep weren’t too bad because of the Super Sweet Sudan (SSS) we had in.”
The SSS perennial provided much needed foliage over the drier months.
Mr Geraghty said it was almost at the point now where he needed the airseeder ready to go at all times.
“If it rains you need to go and just scratch something in because you don’t know what the season will bring,” he said.