Average harvest is still a possibility

Average harvest is still a possibility

Agribusiness
Wheat crops in Wongan Hills are out of the ground and looking healthy.

Wheat crops in Wongan Hills are out of the ground and looking healthy.

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It's still too early to make a call on tonnages: GIWA report.

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THE potential for at least an average harvest is still on the cards, with crops out of the ground in most regions after having been helped along by warm winter conditions.

According to the Grain Industry of Western Australia's July Crop Report, it is still too early to make a call on tonnages but crop growth stages are similar to a traditional mid-to-late May break.

In a lot of areas, sub soil moisture is low and there is the possibility of crops crashing in the spring if there is not decent rainfall over the next month.

Agronomist and crop report author Michael Lamond said grain yield potential was above average in much of the northern areas.

"That includes the central western rim, the south west and the eastern corridor north and south of Merredin down to Hyden and in the north western Lakes district," Mr Lamond said.

"Crops in the west coastal regions north of Perth, the Central Midlands down to the central Kwinana zone, the whole South Coast and the majority of the Esperance port zone are mostly below average due to very low soil moisture reserves, uneven plant establishment and later emergence of crops."

The year has been dominated by the very strong high-pressure systems resulting in severe north and south wind events and scattered rain, rather than good soaking falls when the cold fronts hit the west coast.

Mr Lamond said the traditional fundamentals of warm sea surface temperatures and other indicators have been completely overridden by these high-pressure systems.

"It has made it very difficult for growers to implement cropping programs as most predictions of good rainfall events have fallen away to either nothing or very little of value," he said.

In the Geraldton zone, warm sunny days during June helped to push the crops along and most have caught up to where they would normally be for this time of the year.

Mr Lamond said crops were in front of where they have been for the past couple of years and with no leaching rains, have resulted in very high nitrogen use efficiencies to date.

"There has only been one two-digit rainfall event for most growers and while crops look like they have above-average grain yield potential, the bucket is almost empty," he said.

"A lot of nitrogen was put out in front of the last anticipated rainfall that did not eventuate.

"Most of the wind-blown country has been either resown or crops have come through in high enough numbers for adequate cover."

Crops across the Kwinana North Midlands zone look better now than they have for the past couple of years.

"The non-wetting sand and gravel country has patchy germinations from the combination of wind blow and the lack of a good soak to wet up the profile," Mr Lamond said.

"The coastal country where crops have emerged evenly generally struggle through winter from leaching rains, however they look good for this time of the year.

"The nitrogen use efficiency in these areas has been exceptional.

"Disease and insect pressure have been low although diamondback moths in canola have needed spraying as per further north and budworm has also needed spraying which is very unusual for this time of the year."

Crop growth in Kwinana South has been positive from the warm temperatures in June which has dried out the soil profile to an extent where rain is now needed to keep the grain yield potential up.

Mr Lamond said the recent cooler conditions have slowed things down a little and as for most of WA, the next rain event will be critical.

"The central strip in the zone has been very light on for rain and some growers have not cracked 50 millimetres for the calendar year," he said.

"Crops in this strip have below average grain yield potential and many have also suffered from the severe wind event that occurred a few weeks ago."

In Kwinana North East, the crops range from exceptional in a strip north of Merredin up to Trayning and south to Hyden to below average on the eastern edges of the zone.

In areas where there was summer rain, the reserves of soil moisture will nearly guarantee above-average grain yields.

For Albany West, the drier season to date has limited waterlogging in susceptible areas of paddocks which can push whole paddock grain yield averages down.

"Crops got away early and are now mostly well grown with plenty of tillers on the cereals and reasonable bulk on the canola," Mr Lamond said.

"The region will still need an average finish to achieve the potential above-average grain yields most crops have at the moment.

"Nitrogen use efficiency has been very good from the lack of leaching rains and growers are now waiting to see how the season pans out before topping up."

The Albany South region has a massive range in crop establishment and growth stages within paddocks and across paddocks.

The variability in crop growth has made it very difficult for weed control and crop nutrition management, while the dam water situation is now desperate for most of the southern regions with dry soil profiles and virtually no run-off for the year so far.

The Lakes region is still on track for at least average grain yields from the good start and for most of the region, reasonable soil moisture reserves.

Growers in central and northern areas of the zone received about 40mm of rain in June, which combined with the warm weather has kept crops growing and pushed grain yield potential to above average for those growers.

The crop yield potential in the Esperance port zone is very mixed.

Mr Lamond said western areas were in better shape than they have been for the past few years, although there are pockets within this area close to the coast and in the south west on the borders of the Albany port zone that have had very little rain.

"Moving east in the zone there are some very dry areas around Cascade that only just received their first double digit rainfall event for the year in the past few weeks," he said.

"The central regions are down on rainfall and in the north while it had a good start, more rain is needed to keep crops growing.

"The eastern areas mostly have reasonable crop growth with a lack of any waterlogging to date in coastal areas which can affect yield potential, although growers there are now looking for rain to keep crops ticking along."

In general across WA there has not been any major changes to crop area estimates from last month, however the oat area has dropped slightly with growers intending to substitute oat for barley ending up going to wheat.

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