Send down some more, Hughie

Countryman - - NEWS - Jenne Bram­mer, Cally Dupe and Bob Gar­nant

Wide­spread drench­ing rains dur­ing the past week could be worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to WA’s grain farm­ers, pro­vid­ing a wel­come surge to what has been a roller­coaster grow­ing sea­son.

The dry spell was bro­ken for farm­ers in the north-eastern grain belt, with parched com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing Bea­con (27mm), Muk­in­budin (27.6mm) and Dal­wallinu (14.7mm) re­ceiv­ing rain, al­beit too late for some crops to es­tab­lish.

Aus­tralian As­so­ci­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural Con­sul­tants WA pres­i­dent Tim John­ston said Septem­ber rains were called the “money rains” for good rea­son — be­cause they ar­rived at a cru­cial time in the crops’ de­vel­op­ment when grain was fill­ing.

“These ex­cel­lent fin­ish­ing rains — much big­ger and stead­ier than we usu­ally get — will lead to plumper, heav­ier grain, vastly in­creas­ing ton­nages de­liv­ered and dol­lars in farm­ers’ pock­ets,” he said.

“Pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates were for a 10 mil­lion tonne crop across the State — we could now po­ten­tially get a fur­ther mil­lion tonnes be­cause of these rains.”

For Yeal­er­ing farmer Craig Jes­per­son, 25mm-35mm of cru­cial fin­ish­ing rains since last Wed­nes­day mean he is now set up to achieve above-aver­age yields.

A week ago he was ex­pect­ing just aver­age re­turns but es­ti­mates the re­cent rain would have added about 15 to 20 per cent to his yields.

Mr Jes­persen, who farms with wife Karen, said con­di­tions were par­tic­u­larly dry in April when seed­ing took place, but a small amount of rain even­tu­ally came in May, help­ing crops to ger­mi­nate, al­beit well be­hind sched­ule.

He said the sea­son was not over and farm­ers around his area were on ten­ter­hooks that freez­ing tem­per­a­tures could cause frost dam­age.

About 22mm fell at Narem­been farmer Bren­dan Hickey’s mixed op­er­a­tion be­tween last Thurs­day and Tues­day.

He fin­ished feed­ing the prop­erty’s 10,000 sheep about eight weeks ago and said his on­cepatchy wheat crops had evened out.

“It’s been through scat­tered show­ers with a cou­ple of small storms,” he said. “It should help all of the crops, they are grow­ing quite well and it’s a timely boost for pas­tures.

“Things are look­ing fairly rea­son­able over­all, the crops have caught up and there’s just a few weaker patches now.”

Al­though for­tunes vary ac­cord­ing to the area and rain­fall re­ceived, Mr John­ston said al­most all farm­ers were in a bet­ter predica­ment than they were a week ago.

“We’ve had a very dry start and for many it’s been a very tough year,” he said.

“But farm­ers who were un­til re­cently look­ing at a be­lowa­v­er­age crop may now be on track for a rea­son­able year fol­low­ing the last week’s rain.” The rains were un­for­tu­nately too late in the par­tic­u­larly dry ar­eas of the north­ern and eastern Wheat­belt, where con­di­tions were too dry for crops to es­tab­lish. Some crops in these ar­eas were so far be­hind, farm­ers made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to spray these out, Mr John­ston said.

“We will not be out of the woods in terms of frost dam­age for a few weeks yet, so while crops may be in good shape now, it’s not over un­til the grain is in the bins,” he said.

De­spite this risk, Mr Jes­persen said he con­sid­ers him­self for­tu­nate, given farm­ers in far drier ar­eas would have very lit­tle crop to har­vest this year be­cause of drought con­di­tions.

Mr John­ston said a small num­ber of farm­ers missed out on the re­cent rain, in a line start­ing at Northam, stretch­ing east to Holt Rock. Oth­ers around Bor­den, Pin­grup and the Lakes Dis­trict were badly af­fected by frost about two weeks ago.

Fur­ther north, Northamp­ton farmer Lind­say Box was pleased to re­ceive good falls and is con­fi­dent most of his crops and pas­ture will fin­ish with a bet­ter than aver­age sea­son. “We had 11mm on Fri­day and are ex­pect­ing more to fol­low,” he said.

The Box fam­ily put in 280ha of Bonito canola, which is close to pot­ting up. With lit­tle rain in June and July, their farm fi­nally re­ceived 110mm and 35mm dur­ing two rain pe­ri­ods in Au­gust.

“Our pad­docks cer­tainly needed a drink with 3000 adult sheep to feed,” Mr Box said. “Rain has come in the nick of time.”

Pic­ture: Simon Santi Pic­ture: Bob Gar­nant Photo avail­able at west­pix.com.au

Yeal­er­ing farmer Craig Jes­persen in one of his fields. The sea­son has come good at the Box fam­ily's Northamp­ton farm, with Lind­say Box pleased with re­cent rains promis­ing a good fin­ish to the grow­ing sea­son.

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