Not too many Esperance paddocks damaged by heavy rainfall

By Shannon Beattie
May 8 2022 - 5:00am
Canola was still popping up on Andrew Fowler's farm at Condingup, even after 200 millimetres of rain.

AFTER falls of up to 200 millimetres in two days last month, the majority of growers in the Esperance region have appeared to be lucky, with few seeded paddocks actually affected by the deluge.

Bursted canola seed was an issue for some farmers in areas which copped the brunt of the rain, however it seemed to mainly be paddocks which were sown in the immediate days prior to the falls which were most severely impacted.

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At Condingup, rain across Andrew Fowler's farm the week of April 11 varied drastically, having been as low as 50mm in some areas and capping at 200mm in others.

He had been seeding for a little while prior to the rain and ultimately it was only the canola sown two or three days beforehand which ran into trouble.

That amounted to a bit over 1500 hectares, but as he had already put in another couple of thousand hectares before that, it wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Mr Fowler said in the areas where the rain fell too quickly, there was some seed bursting and reseeding would be necessary.

"Where we seeded with the tynes was worse as there was a lot of slumping in of furrows and what was initially seeded at good depth was then too deep," Mr Fowler said.

"The soil there had then firmed up and almost crusted, so it made it too hard for the canola to come through.

"I got a plane to do some snail baits the weekend of April 23-24 and put a kilo of extra seed out with that to beef up where the canola germinated but it was thinner than it should have been."

After 70 millimetres fell in 48 hours, and 90mm over the week, at his family's Cascade farm, Tom Curnow put a plane up to seed 350ha of canola and then used a land roller to press the seed in.

He wasn't the only one using a plane to help get the program going again after the showers.

After 70mm fell in 48 hours, and 90mm over the week, at his family's Cascade farm, Tom Curnow put a plane up to seed 350ha of canola and then used a land roller to press the seed in.

With the farm at Cascade 90 kilometres from the home farm at Scaddan, it's not easy for them to pop back and finish off the seeding once it had dried out, which would have taken a week or two.

"It's not ideal but we just went with a bit of a higher rate and it seems to have worked alright as we've still got quite a good germination," Mr Curnow said.

"Having started seeding on April 5, we had planted 850ha at Cascade before the rain started and that had all come up really nicely except for a few wet holes where the water pooled and we had to reseed.

"It would have been better if there was a bit less in one go, but overall it's definitely a good thing and the seeding conditions at Scaddan where the rain varied between 35mm and 60mm were great."

For Mr Fowler, there were still some decisions to be made as there were some paddocks which still had a lot of water sitting on the surface and it was questionable if they would be seeded at all.

"We run a big livestock program, so some of that country we'll leave to run pasture on and juggle things around elsewhere," he said.

"In saying that, because a lot of that 200mm fell in such a short space of time, a lot of it came too quickly to infiltrate, so it just ran off the surface.

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"Driving around the country that got the most of the rain, the clay soils were a bit boggy the week afterwards, but the rest of it, particularly the sandier country, had good levels of moisture."

Overall it reflects the pros and cons of farming and ultimately for both farmers there was as much if not more good that came from the rain as there was bad.

"There's a bit of erosion to fix and a bit of reseeding to be done, but that's a small price to pay," Mr Fowler said.

"Most of our farms are looking great, we've had an awesome germination and there are great seeding conditions, so there were definitely more positives than negatives."

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