THE area planted to canola has increased again this season over the record area sown in 2021, with more than half of the total canola plantings for Australia to once again be in WA.
Recent rain over the course of last week will play its part to alleviate the moisture stress early planted canola may have been suffering from, even up patchy emergence and allow paddocks which were sown dry to now germinate.
Overall, the majority of the grainbelt is off to a very good start, with the latest Grain Industry Association of Western Australia crop report reporting reserves of subsoil moisture from autumn rains across most regions.
Last week's widespread rain provided a handy top-up and the timing of the 'break' was near on perfect, settling the dust and halting the run of hot days.
As a result, crops will bounce out of the ground and those still to be sown will go into moisture.
Crop report author Michael Lamond said following last year's record 9.2 million hectares total area for all crops and record harvest tonnage, it was likely the crop area would drop back to more recent historical levels.
"This will not be the case now as the early start and strong prices for canola and cereals mean total crop area will be up around the 9m hectare mark again this year," Mr Lamond said.
"Strengthening grain prices timed with this recent rainfall is likely to see even more crop planted than is estimated in the latest report."
Up to 70 per cent of the State's crop was in the ground before the recent rain and with falls of 20 millimetres plus for most areas except the low rainfall eastern regions and parts of the Esperance zone, the remainder of the crop will be in the ground and up by the end of May or early June.
Apart from the noticeable increase in canola area, wheat and barley area is likely to remain unchanged from 2021, while oats will be down slightly after being replaced by canola.
The lupin and pulse area will also be down slightly.
Much of the north is dry and dusty with growers eager for rain, but despite drying soils 70 to 80pc of all crops had been sown in the northern region by the middle of May.
The season looks to host a large canola program, with growers squeezing in an extra paddock or two to create a reasonable area increase from last year.
Strong barley prices have also seen extra paddocks go in fairly early, with five to six leaf plants around.
Mr Lamond said areas north of Geraldton were looking very dry, with poor emergence and little greenery around, however this area would benefit more than others from the good falls of rain last week.
"Some growers have missed out on the rain receiving only 30mm for the year to date, while some have pocketed 180mm," he said.
"Low subsoil moisture has led to dry sowing and newly emerged plants look to be keen for a drink following 30 plus degree days.
"North of Moora looks promising, with west coast areas such as Badgingarra, Dandaragan and Mingenew picking up big storms and having robust looking crops."
The Kwinana North Midlands region is experiencing an even better start to the growing season than last year, if that is possible.
Subsoil moisture reserves, the timing of the rains, an opportunity to get several knockdown applications on and good grain prices are again a rare combination that seldom come together at the one time.
Canola in the area is in and mostly up, lupins are in, barley is 50 to 60pc in and wheat will be in by the end of May with growers managing variety choices to suit the time of emergence.
On the other hand, the Kwinana South region had been one of the dry spots in the State up until the recent rain, with most areas west of the Meckering line still under 100mm for the year including the falls last week.
"A lot of the zone had little if any germination and most crops were being sown dry," Mr Lamond said.
"Rainfall was again a bit light on in the northern areas of the region although the light, steady falls meant most will soak in with little run-off.
"The region has good stores of subsoil moisture carried over from 2021 and dry-sown crops that will now emerge should be able to access this."
The Kwinana North East zone received very good falls of rain in March with many growers taking advantage to sow canola and as a result the region will contribute the majority of the increase in total canola area for 2022.
While it was too early for some growers, many considered the early sowing opportunity was too good to miss out on considering the price of canola.
All canola in the Albany West area has gone in, with a third of plants approaching four leaf, another third looking patchy, and the rest on the way up.
A third of barley is in and while the area was thought to be down, some programs have gone back up due to good prices, though most are still top heavy with canola.
The area of lupins and faba beans will be down in the region this year due to the early break providing plenty of pasture seeds for livestock.
Following one of the best starts to remember, early sown canola in Albany South is up at six to eight leaf, with the bulk of crops at two to four leaf.
Mr Lamond said nearly all canola was in the ground by mid-May in the region.
"A fair chunk of barley, 60 to70pc, has been put in the ground and most growers are likely to be putting their seeders back in the shed by mid-May," he said.
"Lupins and faba beans have fallen away and been replaced with canola, and a swing back into barley rather than wheat has occurred.
"Subsoil moisture is plentiful and will look to produce some good crops, particularly winter wheats which are already looking fantastic."
The Albany East area (Lakes Region) has had another very good start to the cropping season with autumn rains having provided useful amounts of subsoil moisture.
There was an increase in the canola area planted from 2021 by about 10 to 15pc cent due to the ability to get crops up early from rain near the end of March and the high prices.
However, the barley and wheat split has not changed a great deal from last year due to the new season price of both increasing in recent weeks.
The Esperance port zone has had an amazing start with most areas having at least 60 to 100mm, with areas close to the coast receiving more than 200mm for the year.
Some areas have required re-sowing following the heavy rainfall event in April.
There are some dry areas on the east of town and this area also largely missed out on the rain last week.
Mr Lamond said most growers were not far away from finishing seeding, though there have been some late starters.
"The bulk of the total crop area will be in by the end of May and the recent rain will see the remainder go into moisture," he said.
"Where there have been good early germinations of canola, nitrogen has been going on and in those areas that may get too wet, growers are racing to get it on ahead of further rain."
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