September rain holds key to season

September rain holds key to season

Cropping News

September rains and a soft finish will be the answer to WA grain growers' prayers to either salvage something from the season or return them better than average yields, depending on where they farm.


SEPTEMBER rains and a soft finish will be the answer to WA grain growers' prayers to either salvage something from the season or return them better than average yields, depending on where they farm.

Grain growing areas of the State received useful showers last week and a cold front is expected to bring more showers in the south and west from tonight.

Those showers are expected to be widespread across the agriculture area tomorrow and possibly linger into Saturday in some areas.

"It's quite a weak cold front and moving slowly so it will probably bring between 3 millimetres and 8mm mainly on Friday across the agricultural area," said Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) duty forecaster Stephen McInerney earlier this week.

"The showers will be contracting towards the coast by Saturday, but there may still be some showers hanging about the southern agriculture region," McInerney said.

BoM is forecasting most of the Central Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions have at least a 70 per cent chance of receiving up to 5mm out of the cold front.

Coastal areas and the west of the Central Wheatbelt and Great Southern have an 80pc chance of receiving up to 8mm, according to BoM, but the northern and eastern Wheatbelt only has a 60pc chance of receiving up to 4mm.

But, longer term, grain growers may be disappointed with the outlook for spring, Mr McInerney said.

BoM released its three-month spring climate outlook last Thursday which predicts a warmer and drier-than-average spring across much of Australia.

But WA's agriculture region is one of the areas expected to be affected less by the warmer and drier-than-usual conditions, compared to northern, central and eastern Australia.

According to BoM, positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions are predicted to continue through spring, with the IOD likely to be the dominant climate influence during the next three months.

October rather than September is predicted by BoM to be the warmest and driest spring month, compared to other years, but in WA September rains could still be below par for eastern Wheatbelt farmers, Mr McInerney said.

"Those out to about Corrigin will probably be alright and receive close to their September average rainfall, but as you go further east there is a higher chance of less than average rainfall for September," he said.

"There's also a 50:50 chance spring temperatures will be a bit higher than normal."

But at the moment, crops are looking good with Central Wheatbelt growers still confident of achieving average to better-than-average yields provided spring is kind to them.

Almost 50mm of rain for August has turned fortunes around in the Lake King area.

Local farmer Hugh Roberts said the area received about 30mm in last week's series of fronts and crops in the region had picked up quickly.

"The cereals are looking pretty good, lupins and canola are patchy, and crops are a month to three weeks behind normal but there is a bit of optimism around," Mr Roberts said.

The water situation in the Lakes area has been well documented in recent months and Mr Roberts said there had been better than expected run off into dams.

"The rain was pretty steady but we still managed to catch three to four foot of water in dams," he said.

"We are going to need a lot more to get through summer, but at least it is a start.

"If we get to this stage in September and it is as wet as it is now we will get average yields in the cereals.

"Pasture is not brilliant.

"It is just starting to get going but it isn't going to be a ball burster in terms of sheep feed that is for sure."

At Beaumont in the south east, Neville McDonald said the more than 20mm they received last week was a game changer.

"It came just in time to save crops and it was a life saver really," Mr McDonald said.

"We had crops that were dying and so it wouldn't have wanted to have come any later.

"It puts us back in the hunt and if we can get reasonable rain for the rest of August and into September then we would be looking at average yields."

Munglinup grower Gemma Walker was happy to report a 35mm rain event over last week.

"We have now had 70mm for August and the actual first rain we received in early August doubled our growing season total," Ms Walker said.

"Two weeks ago the canola was looking blue and the cereals weren't too happy but the crops have now picked up substantially and the canola is suddenly flowering."

Ms Walker said in some ways the season was panning out similar to last year.

"The yield potential is still there, we just need another good rain this month and into September to get average yields," she said.

"Overall we have been incredibly lucky to get the rain we did in the past 10 days or so, because it wasn't shaping up well for a while there."

North of Merredin towards Nungarin Neil Smith said his Ellanna Farms property received a total of 15mm in showers on Wednesday and Friday last week

"It wasn't much, but it was welcome," Mr Smith said.

"Given that we're three weeks behind, the wheat and barley doesn't look too bad, we're about a fortnight from the heads forming I'd say.

"Our canola is just starting to flower - we missed the (earlier) showers that those around Merredin got, their canola has been flowering for about three weeks now.

"We'll be happy with an average year if we get a good September and a soft finish"

Further west, Goomalling Shire president and grain grower Barry Haywood said his farm received 8mm on Friday.

"That took our rainfall for last week to 23mm which was very nice actually," Mr Haywood said.

"There's a few that have got a bit less and a few that have probably got a bit more, but about 20mm seems to be the average around here.

"Some say we needed it, but I'm old school, I like to see them (crops) hanging out for a drink a bit so they send roots out and then they flourish when it does rain.

"I drove halfway through the shire going to the footy (on Sunday) and apart from being a little bit later than normal, it's looking pretty good everywhere.

"Ours (wheat and barley) are just starting to spike, they're pretty close to coming out of flag, but the canola is hanging back a bit - the germination was pretty good but ours just seems to be hanging back.

"I'm still quite confident we can have at least an average year, if not better than average, provided September is pretty good to us."

It was a similar story from Peter Smith at Carnamah.

"We're looking pretty good, I hear they're going backwards a bit further north but we're doing alright, we had good rain in June which filled up the profile," Mr Smith said.

"We had about 7mm for the week last week which took our total up to 11-12mm so far this month which is keeping it going, although our lighter soils were feeling the pinch - we need a good rain, 25mm, to get the nitrogen working."

Mr Smith said his wheat and barley was still green and some way off forming heads and his canola, while fairly patchy, was starting to flower.

At Dalwallinu the season is on the "knife edge" for Murray White.

"We're right on the knife-edge, if September is kind to us and we get rain and a soft finish then we'll be above average, but because we're late, if it's hot and dry we'll be below average," Mr White said.

"The crops are looking really nice at the moment, we had somewhere between 14-19mm last week which I'm pretty happy with and hopefully they'll be some more at the end of this week.

"There's still some late tillering with the wheat and barley so they're a little way off forming a head and the canola is just starting to flower - we don't need hot weather right now," he said.


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