Dry could see lots of money burnt

Dry could see lots of money burnt


Cropping News
 The dust was flying as Wagin farmers Ben (left) and Greg Ball (right) and their farm worker Jack Stallard put in the last third of their cropping program dry. Ben reckons the way the season is panning out they could burn a bit of money this year and he set fire to some Monopoly money to prove it!

The dust was flying as Wagin farmers Ben (left) and Greg Ball (right) and their farm worker Jack Stallard put in the last third of their cropping program dry. Ben reckons the way the season is panning out they could burn a bit of money this year and he set fire to some Monopoly money to prove it!

Aa

As Farm Weekly arrived at Ben Ball's Wagin property last week to take a photo of him seeding, he pulled out a wad of Monopoly money and a firelighter.

Aa

AS Farm Weekly arrived at Ben Ball's Wagin property last week to take a photo of him seeding, he pulled out a wad of Monopoly money and a firelighter.

"I reckon you need a different shot to a farmer squatting in front of his seeding rig, so I have come up with an idea for you," Mr Ball said.

"The way this season is panning out, we are in danger of burning a bit of money, so let's get a photo of me doing that."

Mr Ball and his wife Kristy farm with his father Greg and mother Glenys and the family is two thirds of the way through seeding after starting on May 3.

Like many farmers across WA at present they are dry seeding and are not sure how this year is going to pan out with little rain due in the next week at least.

Mr Ball said the lack of a good start had already prompted him to make significant changes to this year's cropping program.

With no substantial rain since October last year, there was zero subsoil moisture which was a concern.

"I got scared off by the weather in April," Mr Ball said.

"I had planned to put in 500 hectares of canola but we made the decision to pull that out of the program and I have a fair bit of money sitting in the shed at the moment because it was hybrid canola that we were going to put in.

"We had no summer rain here at all and there was no subsoil moisture and with the long range forecast looking terrible, I was pretty worried about the canola going in if we didn't get a wet May.

"Also, looking back at our records, we rarely have a good canola year here if we don't sow in to that subsoil moisture.

"Getting the canola up and going seemed like a low percentage so the decision was made to pull it out altogether.

"One positive from the lack of summer rain is that we haven't had to spray about 500-600ha that we normally might for melons."

This year will also be the first time in many years the Balls haven't planted any lupins.

"Traditionally lupins have always made up a component of our program," Mr Ball said.

"They were a third of our program 10 years ago, but we have been whittling down the hectares we put in over time because it has been a very variable crop.

"Lupins don't like a dry start, a dry finish or a frost.

"When they are good they are excellent but when they are poor, they are very poor."

Mr Ball said after a tough year in 2015, where they only received 220 millimetres in the growing season, their lupins yielded less than one tonne to the hectare.

"In 2016 on the high ground where there was no frost they went 3-3.5t/ha and it was fantastic," he said.

"It is just that variability from year to year that is hard to plan for.

"It is hard enough to put together a farm budget without having lupins in the mix."

Mr Ball said after dropping the canola and lupins they would increase the hectares planted to the other components of the program, including barley, oats and oaten hay.

In terms of varieties, the Balls will plant all Compass barley in the program this year with mostly Bannister used for oats and a small amount of Carrolup for the hay crop also.

The revision of their program follows similar trends across the State with many farmers having made the decision to drop canola out of programs altogether, or significantly reduce the hectares planted to the oilseed in 2019.

In its May crop report released earlier this month, the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) said the intended canola area before seeding had reverted to areas similar to 2017, with 1.4 million hectares of canola production planned.

GIWA said this area had been adjusted down and will reduce further if no rain falls over the next two weeks.

The barley area is projected to be up from 2018, continuing the trend from previous years, due to relative profitability compared to wheat.

The likely area, close to 1.9m hectares, will be a new record and in some areas of the State the barley area will exceed the wheat area for the first time in history.

Another first for the Balls last year saw them store all of their harvested grain on farm.

"We use silo bags for storage and it was great for harvest logistics," Mr Ball said.

"We run two chasers and two bagging machines and generally in the morning dad would set up the second bagging machine and the chasers would just outload straight into that and the header doesn't stop.

"When one bag is full, the one next door is ready to go.

"We were never waiting for a truck to come and it simplified the whole harvest process.

"We didn't really want to get into the trucking game either.

"Labour is short at harvest time as it is and I didn't want to be lining up at CBH in a truck if I could avoid it."

Mr Ball said the on-farm storage also offered flexibility when it came to marketing their grain.

"Domestically things are OK for selling grain," he said.

"We are lucky in this area in that there are several marketing options within a short distance.

"Bunge is just down the road at Arthur River and UniGrain and Gilmac are situated in Wagin so we have some big buyers in close proximity and you would be mad not to use them."

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