HARVEST is officially underway in Western Australia with deliveries being made at CBH Group sites in the Geraldton, Esperance and Kwinana South zones, but overall excitement has been spoiled by the latest tonnage predictions.
In the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia's (GIWA) September Crop Report, the total production estimate for the State was more than 14 million tonnes, however according to agronomist and report author Michael Lamond, that total has declined to potentially below 12mt.
Talking on ABC's Country Hour on Monday, Mr Lamond said in the September report he stated that while there could potentially be 14mt, if it didn't rain in the 10 days after that could drop by more than 10 per cent.
"Since then there has been virtually no rain anywhere, there have been cool temperatures to slow things down, but with no rain crops can't finish," Mr Lamond said.
There has been a massive slide in potential tonnage, not just the areas that missed out on rain entirely this season, but even areas in the south western rim are really falling away.
"We just haven't got the rain, there are big chunks of the State that are in very low decile range and while we had great potential early on and early growth was excellent, you just can't finish a crop without rain," he said.
It was the Geraldton zone which officially kicked off harvest last week, with one grower delivering 180 tonnes of top-quality canola, graded CAG1, to CBH's Moonyoonooka site on Wednesday.
Esperance followed two days later with 46t of canola from Lake Varley, also graded CAG1, being delivered to the Chadwick receival site.
On Monday, things were up and running in the Kwinana South zone after 50t of CAG1 canola was delivered by Jack Naughton at Kellerberrin.
The start of harvest last week coincided with the exhibition launch of CBH's photo competition, with Ricki Fullwood claiming the overall prize and Coutney Payne and Corey Foster winning the people's choice (both photos pictured).
Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray predicted harvest might have started a bit later in the area given the season, but said the beginning of October was a normal start time.
"Getting the first delivery when we didn't certainly didn't surprise me given the fact that the past five weeks we haven't had a lot of moisture in rainfall," Mr Gray said.
"The first couple of weeks of harvest in our zone will be very stop-start and all of our sites opening will happen in stages - I don't think they'll all be running for at least two weeks and I wouldn't be surprised if it's not until the first week of November.
"It completely comes down to what weather we have, the next few days are expected to be quite warm, so I think it will be the last week of October that we really get going."
Mr Lamond said the lack of rain in September was close to the worst-case scenario and while it could have been worse if it was warmer, there has been a gradual slide over the past three weeks.
"This year is different from any other in that there is a massive strip of country that hardly got any rain, we're talking only 120 millimetres in total for the growing season.
"There's a lot of potential gone and it's hard to put a figure in it, but we're potentially looking at less grain this year than last year.
"Last year it was 12mt, but we could have lost more than 2mt in the past six weeks, so it wouldn't surprise me if we got less than that."
Mr Gray said in the Geraldton zone, the crops he'd driven past were better than he thought they'd be.
"Given that we had a slow start, some really good rains in August and very little since then which is always the key component, I wasn't sure how we were going to go," he said.
"Talking to growers, there is some nervousness with some of the later crops due to the lack of moisture, lupins and canola seems fine, but barley and wheat will be the interesting ones.
"If we get a good run, 85pc of the zone is generally done around December 10, there's always some that are a bit later than that, but we normally try for six good weeks of harvest."