Dry finish expected to drive below-average yields

Dry finish expected to drive below-average yields

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Harvest is expected to start in mid-November for York farmer Rhys Turton, which will be 10-14 days earlier than normal.

Harvest is expected to start in mid-November for York farmer Rhys Turton, which will be 10-14 days earlier than normal.

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York farmer Rhys Turton, like many, is expecting below-average yields for his mixed cropping operation this season.

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YORK farmer Rhys Turton, like many, is expecting below-average yields for his mixed cropping operation this season.

On the eve of his harvest, the WAFarmers president does not have high expectations on the back of "an average to below-average rainfall season".

"For this area (the western part of the Wheatbelt), which is considered a reasonably high rainfall area, it's been fairly low," Mr Turton said.

"We've had a very dry spring - September was quite dry, so we had a below-average finish."

The third-generation farmer manages the property with the help of his father Mike, who lives on the farm and farm-hand Dale Wyland.

Purchased by Mr Turton's grandfather Trevor in 1968, the farm was predominantly sheep, with only a small portion of crops planted for hay and sheep feed.

"That was back when wool was really booming," Mr Turton said.

Mr Turton's father, who trained as a wool classer at Muresk and still holds his wool classing ticket, worked in the shearing industry for about seven years before he returned to work on the farm full-time.

"Dad still lives and works on the farm and shearing time keeps his eye in," Mr Turton said.

In the late 1990s, when it didn't look like a great recovery period for wool, the family changed the ratio of the farm to about 50:50 grain and sheep.

Today, the farm is still 50 per cent livestock and 50pc cropping, with about 2500 meat and wool sheep and a mix of crops including hay, wheat, barley, oats, lupins and serradella.

"Normally we do canola as well, but with the dry start, we knocked that out this year," Mr Turton said.

The farm has only ever used TT canola, as there hasn't been a big enough weed burden to warrant moving into GM canola.

"TT is doing the job in terms of weed control and also picking up a bit of premium in the price for non-GM," Mr Turton said.

"But we're certainly not against GM canola and I think the time will come for us to swing that way eventually.

"I did give chickpeas a try last year as well but because of the dry start we gave them a miss this year as well."

Compared to last year, harvest for the York farm will begin about 10-14 days earlier than normal, in mid-November.

"Hay is a great measure of how the season is going and we've cut hay at least 10 days earlier than usual," Mr Turton said.

"We haven't delivered any hay yet to find out the quality, but just talking to our neighbour who has delivered some, the quality hasn't been great but the price is really good, so that's making up for a lack of yield and quality."

Mr Turton said last year's harvest was average, with the farm's hay yielding about eight tonnes per hectare and cereals about 3.5t/ha.

Compare those numbers to this year, its hay is expected to yield about 4t/ha and cereals about 2t/ha.

"So significantly less than what we'd call average," Mr Turton said.

In this dryer year he said the farm's lupins were the star performer out of all of his crops and he expected them to yield about 1.5t/ha.

"We got them in dry, so they were just sitting there waiting for the first rain and when that happened they got up and going and looked pretty happy all year,'' Mr Turton said.

"They've been surprisingly good for a late start and a dry finish."

The farm's barley (which includes both feed and malt varieties) and wheat, which is classed as Australian Hard (AH), were both looking reasonable, with barley expected to yield about 2-2.25t/ha and wheat about 2t/ha.

"I think we got on top of the weeds, so they're not travelling too badly," Mr Turton said.

"But the dry finish has definitely impacted the grain."

This year, he expects to sell 10,000 horse bales of hay domestically and to export about 500t.

In terms of problems this season, the farm only experienced some bud worms in its lupin and serradella crops, which were knocked out with insecticide.

Although Mr Turton keeps grain and hay for stock feed, he said he was a bit concerned about summer feed for his sheep, which are shorn in the first week of October.

"I think it will be scarce with the lighter stubbles and lighter pasture growth, so stock feed will probably be an issue by the end of summer, as well as stock water," Mr Turton said.

"We moved right away from burning and retained all of the stubbles last year and mulched them in with a speed tiller.

"It was hard to judge how good that was with the dryer year, you couldn't say it was outstanding or didn't work, it's just a difficult year to try and judge it."

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