THERE were a few weeks in July when members of the Yuna Farm Improvement Group (YFIG) thought their annual spring field walk would be a non-event.
The season was looking distinctly on edge, having been clobbered by a once-in-a-century wind event, however this was followed by season-saving rain which soaked the district with falls of more than 100 millimetres.
In the words of YFIG president Brady Green "it has been a remarkable recovery for the district".
And walking among the more than 100 farmers who attended last week's spring field walk, comments still persisted at the resultant bumper crops on show, including "unbelievable", "astounding", "mind-blowing" and "bloody miracle".
Now all eyes are on the weather with hopes for 10-20mm of rain this month and a soft, cool finish.
But last week was a time for reflection and the YFIG committee nailed it with an interactive program that encouraged its members to openly discuss issues with researchers and industry specialists.
Farm walks were the order of the day, with plenty of subjects raised including at the National Variety Trial site where the AH wheat variety Scepter was described as "king" and in the next breath "without a replacement".
The good news for local growers assessing crop varieties for their district, was the flexibility of varieties being trialled offering early and late sowing windows.
The general opinion was in the Yuna district the demand was for quicker-growing varieties that enabled a knockdown before early sowing.
One new AH variety, LRPB Havoc, was described as four days quicker than Mace in germination with a risk of it taking off and setting grain fast.
The risk, of course, in a rain-limited district such as Yuna, is that moisture in the key.
The same applies to Scepter which can handle late breaks because it's a quick germinating variety.
Vixen, another AH variety, was discussed as another option with a Korac-type maturity.
It is ideally suited to mid-May planting and over the past two years has been the top yields in NVT trials with Rock Star.
A new AH variety option, Hammer, is being bulked this year with seed available for the 2021 sowing season.
Other varieties discussed included Chief, an APW variety as a mid to late maturing option and Denison, a longer season APW variety which can be sown in mid-April.
A question by a plant breeder representative as to who might be still growing AH variety Emu Rock met with a mute response from farmers and it was onto the next variety trial.
Farmers were told noodle variety Calingiri was due to be downgraded to Feed in two years and a possible replacement IGW 8139 was seen in the trials.
Another noodle variety, Kinsei, was seen as a good potential for the Japanese Udon noodle market.
There was a brief discussion on some farmers reverting to Zen noodle variety, while others were sticking to Ninja.
Another noodle variety in the trials was Devil, a mid-spring AH and AHN wheat with similar yields to Scepter.
In the light of China's trade sanctions it was inevitable there would be little interest in barley trials though some farmers said they still grew Spartacus to bale for straw.
A Spartacus replacement, Maximus with a four to five per cent yield increase and improved disease tolerance is being assessed for Malt and may be accredited in March 2021 - seed is available.
There also are varieties with a Compass background that will be available on a limited sale basis in 2021 for Feed to get the varieties into the market.
Breeders are eying the Malt grade with some of these varieties.
Another variety, Buff, might make Malt accreditation in March 2022.
It will be a Feed category next year.
On the canola front, independent Geraldton agronomist Bill Gordon said many growers were "playing around" with Clearfield varieties.
Several varieties inspected included 540XC and CT580 TT.
"I think 580CT is the first Clearfield variety for flexibility," Mr Gordon said.
"But with cereals it's normal for a two-year break from canola in the Clearfield system.
"The new Chief wheat variety is brilliant for controlling brome grass and wild oats but there are plant back issues because of the Clearfield chemistry (of imidazolinones).
Department of Primary Industry and Development (DPIRD) entomologist Dusty Svertson there were a few issues emerging with native budworm in cereals and canola.
"This is the third year in a row we've seen them in cereals and the fact they flew in so early this year is a worry," Mr Svertson said.
"There are high numbers being recorded in the northern region and they are moving south, posing a threat to chickpeas, canola and cereals, especially wheat.
"We're expecting a new wave coming through about now laying eggs on radish and if they get sprayed they climb onto wheat.
"Armyworm is still out and about in Carnarvon which makes us nervous.
"They are a tropical species but they can attack pulses and canola so watch out for that."
On Russian wheat aphids, Mr Severtson said DPIRD had 70 traps in operation throughout the Wheatbelt, with 40 in the northern region.
"So far all have had zero counts and fortunately we've got the chemistries to handle them."
Other trials looked at new chemical strategies for resistance ryegrass and radish in wheat and lupins and grass herbicides in wheat, barley and canola.