WITH an historically large nine million hectares planted this season in Western Australia - on the back of high grain prices leading up to and during seeding - the 2022 grain crop is on track for another very good year.
The crop is in good shape for this time of year, with the recent rain arriving just in time for crops in the drier regions in the central and north of the State and topping up moisture profiles in the southern regions.
According to the latest Grain Industry of Western Australia Crop Report, soil moisture profiles in the central and northern regions had been running down over the past two months and early sown crops were starting to show signs of moisture stress.
While the crop across the State is well set up for another huge crop, most grain growing regions, particularly those in the central and north, are going to need good winter and spring rain to exceed the 20 million tonne mark of total grain production again this year.
Crop report author Michael Lamond said canola plantings had exceeded barley for the second year in a row and were nudging the record 1.9m hectares of barley planted in 2018, just prior to the China tariffs being introduced.
"The canola crop is generally more advanced compared with June last year and could easily produce more than 3mt of grain again this year if the rain keeps coming," Mr Lamond said.
The wheat crop area is again up about the 5mha mark and crops are in a similar condition to June last year.
Crops in the large wheat growing areas of the eastern regions do not quite have the same potential as compared to this time last year, although a lot of that potential was not realised due to the frosts in spring.
Away from these lower rainfall central and northern areas, there are regions where the condition of the wheat crop is well ahead of where it was last year.
Mr Lamond said growers had not backed off on crop inputs due to the higher costs, as some may have expected.
"The increase in grain prices and a good start has warranted sticking to a strategy of maximum profit based on water limited grain yield potential," he said.
"Good weed control upfront, even crop establishment and timely post-emergent nitrogen applications, combined with a large area planted, have set up the State for another potentially big harvest."
The Geraldton port zone ranges from very good through to drought mode.
The strip of country from Three Springs across to Perenjori down to Wubin and Carnamah is exceptionally dry, with crops still not out of the ground, plus a patch of country around Northampton is dry also.
However, in between these areas there are amazing canola crops with some 30 to 40 per cent in flower.
The coastal areas around Badgingarra and Eneabba have had consistent rain that has helped to get the crop up evenly on the non-wetting sands and has kept crops growing during the recent warm weather.
"Early wheat planted in April has had its first pass of nitrogen and crop protection treatments," Mr Lamond said.
"There's a huge spread of maturities in the zone which will hopefully give a good buffer for any frost that may come up later in the season.
"Nearly every farm has a range of maturities from mid-tillering to early emergence."
Seeding is pretty well finished in the Kwinana North Midlands, with the crops generally in better condition in most of the zone than last year.
Most canola has had the first pass for weed control and a lot of nitrogen was going out in anticipation of this week's rains.
The early cereals are looking good - probably too good for this time of the year - and need some cold weather to slow them down as they are leafed up and racing through their growth stages.
Mr Lamond said the western areas of the Kwinana South zone had been behind the rest of the State up until now, with crops generally going in later due to light patchy rain in April and May.
"There were plenty of early canola crops in the region planted at the end of March and early May, although most cereals were planted dry," he said.
"The early canola crops are starting to reach full ground cover and the rain last week was perfect timing for washing in urea and getting weed control."
The northern parts of the Kwinana North East zone have had a good start and crops, particularly in the western areas, are in better shape than this time last year.
The crops are relatively early and most have some stored moisture underneath.
All crops in the Albany West region look really good, with the early crops better than good.
There are canola crops starting to flower, which is unusual in the region for this time of the year, and the cereals look magnificent, although those on the gravel ridges were needing a drink up until last week.
A few of the intended wheat paddocks ended up going to barley, and lupins have been substituted out for canola in the eastern areas of the zone.
Mr Lamond said it had been a cracking start down south, with the only hiccup a fair bit of pasture lost through Borden and Ongerup from the false breaks this year.
"In contrast, the early sown crops have hung on through those dry periods at the start of the year and are in very good shape," he said.
"First flowers of canola were just starting to appear last week and are expecting to be 10 per cent flower by the middle of the month, which also means crops are now at a stage where they could handle a bit of waterlogging."
The Lakes district is very positive again this year.
The eastern areas around Lake King and Mt Madden have been quite wet, and crops through here are setup well for a very good year.
In contrast, the western regions have been very dry up until recently.
Most canola crops are a good week earlier than last year, with some crops just starting to flower.
Areas may get too wet with the coming rain and there will be patches where growers won't be able to do anything for a few weeks because otherwise they will make too much of a mess.
The Esperance port zone has had a very good start to the growing season with early sown canola and barley crops nearly at full ground cover.
Overall, the grain yield potential at present is similar to 2021, with some areas better than last year and some areas not as good.
Crops in the west and far east of the zone are as good as the same time last year, while some areas east of Esperance have missed out on rain and are not as good.
Mr Lamond said more south-western areas were waterlogged than last year.
"The better areas have close to a full moisture profile and will not need much more rain to become untrafficable," he said.
"Crops in these areas are bulked up and will easily withstand some waterlogging if it comes in wet over the next few months.
"However, some of the early canola plantings are not as even as they were in 2021, due to very heavy rain over a few days in late April causing emergence to be reduced."
The area of crop that has been planted is similar to last year, with less area left out than was planned due the relatively high grain prices.
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