WHEATBELT farmers have been treated to a "Goldilocks seeding" - receiving just the right amount of rainfall at just the right time.
The prime conditions, teamed with high grain prices, have given growers confidence to set up another bumper crop this season.
WAFarmers grains section president Mic Fels, who farms in Esperance, said there was a "very buoyant mood" among most growers, particularly those with canola in the ground.
However given it was only early on in the season, he said there was also some uncertainty in what was a "difficult to read" market.
"There's a limit to how much grain you can sell into this current market, particularly when the basis is strongly negative - in other words Australian grain is undervalued globally," Mr Fels said.
"The basis could, however, recover by harvest and result in even stronger prices.
"There is a lot of uncertainty and risk, but also opportunity for the bold.
"As long as we have an average or better year then we are looking pretty good.
"But it is still a long time before harvest, so we won't get too far ahead of ourselves on how this season will play out"
Keeping this in mind, Mr Fels said he was aware of many growers, who were trying to push their canola program as hard as possible.
He added prices for feed barley were "massive" at more than $400 per tonne, resulting in a scramble to increase acreage during seeding.
Meanwhile, wheat had been "dragging its knuckles" due to overseas grain price inequity for Australian growers.
High prices haven't prompted Mr Fels to make any major changes to his cropping rotations over the past two years.
In fact, he has actually increased lupin acreage with a focus on the long-term benefits to business.
"Lupins are having a bit of a renaissance with us, even though they are a complete dog, price wise compared to say canola, which is the alternative," he said.
"We are a bit late to the lupin party, but we have discovered we can grow pretty good lupin crops at the moment across most of our property - even on our heavier soils."
Normally, Mr Fels' cropping program would be one third wheat, barley and canola with no legumes, however this year this has changed to a third wheat, a third barley, 20pc canola and 11pc lupins.
"Our canola program is quite small, as it has been partly substituted with lupins," Mr Fels said.
"My timing is probably terrible given the canola price and that lupins are a complete doozy, particularly in the Esperance port zone.
"But the difference we are seeing in our lighter country means we are going to be better off in the long run."
Currently, Mr Fels has two years' worth of lupins sitting in CBH with no bids and he is aware of many other growers who are in a similar situation.
"There are literally no buyers for lupins," he said.
"Even CBH, which exports a lot of lupins out of the other port zones, won't even post a bid in Esperance.
"It is the best adapted legume to the Esperance port zone, yet no one will buy it from us.
"There is a real issue in the marketplace, but then crazies like me still grow them because we need the other benefits in our system.
"We just hope sooner or later someone realises there is some very cheap protein sitting at Esperance waiting for someone to grab it."
Legumes have helped Mr Fels kickstart the soil on lighter country by building up nitrogen levels.
Once he put lupins in those areas, he found he could grow a "really big cereal crop" the following year.
"We just have to do it, the country is just not performing without it," he said.
Mr Fels started seeding two weeks earlier - in the first week of April - this year, due to staff shortages.
Despite this, he still managed to finish by mid-May, which he put down to a high efficiency seeding system, set-up around minimal labour requirements.
He said most of the farmers he had spoken to in the Esperance port zone - even those in low rainfall areas - had seeded in perfect conditions.
"One of the farmers I spoke to described it as a goldilocks seeding - it hasn't been too wet or too dry, but just right," Mr Fels said.
"I am in this funny black hole where we aren't recording any large rainfall events.
"But seeding early did pay off and our crops are up and away, surviving on 8-9mm rainfall events at the moment.
"We aren't guaranteed an average or better season yet - but the wet years are the problem years where I farm."
Last season, Mr Fels' high rainfall block produced the "worst crop" on record with an average of 350 kilograms of canola.
So far this year, he has recorded 83mm.
In comparison, a friend of his in north Salmon Gums has already recorded 140mm - which is pretty unusual.
"They are having a cracking start, a lot of the rainfall areas in the Esperance port zone and across the State are," Mr Fels said.
"Whatever happens we are very fortunate to be doing what we are doing, where we are doing it."
With strong demand for canola biofuel production across the US and Europe, Mr Fels said there was opportunity for Australia to take advantage and follow.
He said given the newly-elected Federal government was doubling down on emissions reduction, biodiesel from canola was something which should be looked at as part of the package.
"The difference between canola and fossil fuels is that the carbon emissions are literally recycled from the atmosphere with canola, compared to new carbon dug out of the ground with fossil fuels.
"We labelled this recycled plant-based carbon 'embodied carbon', which has importantly now been acknowledged and adopted by CSIRO, and is the elephant in the room when it comes to farm emissions.
"There's huge scope for canola over-and-above where it is at now, once people sort of grasp how it can be better for emissions reduction.
"We really don't take advantage of biofuels in Australia at the moment and it needs to be looked at, as most of the world is using biofuels including canola and ethanol, which are produced from plants."
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