IDEAL growing conditions for most areas in the Wheatbelt throughout July is keeping the season on track, according to the Grain Industry of WA's (GIWA) August crop report.
The conditions, combined with the early sowing of the majority of crops, means crop growth stage is advanced, significantly reducing the risk of a spring drought impacting on yields as heavily as occurred last season.
GIWA places crop estimates at 17.54 million tonnes, which is up on July's estimate of 17.25mt.
According to the report, canola in low rainfall areas around Latham and Dalwallinu will "easily break local paddock records", lupins in the northern Wheatbelt have "exceptional yield potential" and across the board fungal disease and weeds have been kept in check.
The only blight on the horizon seems to be the risk of frost damage.
"The advanced growth stage heightens the risk of frost damage across all regions including the south Geraldton region where frost is rarely a threat," the report said.
"Mid-season maturing varieties of wheat such as Mace sown in late April are now at head emergence to early flowering, and have heightened susceptibility to frost damage as a consequence.
"Frost damage to flowering canola is a lesser concern because the plant is able to compensate with regrowth and with a long growing season still ahead."
In the Kwinana zone yield potential for all crops remains strong, although frost is a concern in the eastern zone and wet conditions in the west of the zone is proving to be problematic for nitrogen and pesticide application.
Powdery mildew and yellow spot needs control in wheat which did not receive early disease management and powdery mildew needs controlling in barley.
While conditions are upbeat in the north, prolonged and heavy rain has caused significant losses through the Albany zone and Esperance.
Winter rainfall has been patchy, with some areas experiencing waterlogging, while paddocks across the lower Albany zone are starting to dry out after below average rainfall in July.
Where there has been waterlogging yields may be below average at best but prolonged waterlogging could bring substantial losses elsewhere.
Yield expectation in the Esperance zone remain high and the impact of waterlogging in crops from Esperance to Hopetoun is reducing with the below average rainfall.
"Soil moisture is overall at high levels in districts extending to the north and east of Salmon Gums," the report said.
"Around Grass Patch, well grown canola is showing signs of afternoon wilting and rain will be welcome in this district.
"There are concerns that many crops have established a root system with the ready availability of water."
The report said apart from the upcoming frost risk, a shallow root system would be yield limiting if spring became too warm and soils dried out too quickly.
Nitrogen usage is also up by 60pc based on the last three seasons due to the waterlogging, denitrification of soils and low nitrogen soils, due to the very high yields last year.
Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) grains industry directorate Ian Foster said most cropping regions had well above average summer rain and an early break to winter produced good amounts of stored soil water.
"Overall, with high levels of soil water availability, modelling indicates well above average potential crop yields in many areas," he said.
"The main seasonal climate risk to crop is frost, as early-sown crops are likely to flower during periods of higher frost risk."
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting roughly equal chances of a wetter or drier conditions over the next three months for WA and no preference for either warmer or cooler seasonal conditions.
The current outlook reflects a strong negative Indian Ocean Diploe, a continued cooling of tropical Pacific Ocean waters and very warm sea surface temperatures surrounding northern and eastern Australia.