Tem­po­rary halt has grow­ers antsy

Countryman - - NEWS - Dorothy Hen­der­son

Rain may have stalled head­ers and tem­po­rar­ily halted har­vest in the Esper­ance re­gion but the area’s farm­ers and their em­ploy­ees are champ­ing at the bit to get this year’s crop safely off and in stor­age.

At Wit­tenoom Hills, where swathers and head­ers have been in ac­tion for sev­eral weeks, Ash­ley Re­ich­stein and Me­gan McDowall were look­ing for­ward to this year’s har­vest and keen to get the job done.

With 5800ha of crop in, the sea­son has been kind for the fam­ily, de­spite a dry spell and some is­sues with late-grow­ing rye grass.

“We are look­ing at a bet­terthan-nor­mal sea­son this year. It is look­ing like, hope­fully, a very good year . . . if we don’t have too many weather events dur­ing har­vest,” Mr Re­ich­stein said.

“We are look­ing at an av­er­age to above av­er­age year.”

Mr Re­ich­stein tem­pered op­ti­mism with a dose of re­al­ism, point­ing out there was still a lag be­tween now and a suc­cess­ful har­vest of the whole crop.

“We are hop­ing the weather will fine up. We know we can grow the crops but we can’t al­ways pre­serve and main­tain the qual­ity,” he said.

About 15mm of rain early this week had brought home the re­al­ity of crop­ping in the Esper­ance area. It was a re- min­der of the mois­ture is­sues that can try the pa­tience of grow­ers, even though the rel­a­tively re­li­able rain­fall was a boon at other times of the year.

“We did have a dry spell af­ter seed­ing for four or five weeks but we had good soil mois­ture, which al­lowed the crops to get away and com­pete against the weeds,” Mr Re­ich­stein said.

“A lot of rye grass came back later in the sea­son due to the late rain, so we are ex­pect­ing to see some grass is­sues in the bar­ley and canola.”

Mr Re­ich­stein said this sea­son the crop­ping mix on the 6200ha prop­erty com­prised Mace and Scep­tre wheat, Baudin, La Trobe and RGT Planet bar­ley, Bonito and Wa­hoo canola and 100ha of Hur­ri­cane lentils. “Though RGT Planet is not ac­cred­ited yet, we have in­cluded it in our mix, as it is a pre­ferred malt­ing bar­ley for the South-East Asian mar­ket,” he said.

The prop­erty en­ter­prise mix was rounded out with 400ha of pas­ture, with Merino sheep prov­ing to be a use­ful in­come di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

While Mr Re­ich­stein has been happy with the per­for­mance of their cho­sen va­ri­eties, he said Scep­tre wheat had proven to be sus­cep­ti­ble to pow­dery mildew — an is­sue that would be dealt with us­ing ap­pro­pri­ate spray­ing.

“We are also ex­pect­ing to have to deal with is­sues pre­sented to us by er­got, wet weather and snails,” he said.

Fore­warned is fore­armed though, and there were ways to deal with each of those is­sues.

With an in­tense pe­riod of work ahead, the fam­ily on Ba­roona will be joined by a team of peo­ple from the UK, the lat­est batch of in­ter­na­tional em­ploy­ees to take part in har­vest.

Mr Re­ich­stein said he and Ms McDowall al­ways had back­pack­ers on their har­vest team. “We do em­ploy some through agen­cies but some come to us via friends and word of mouth,” he said.

LEFT: Han­nah Pritchard, back, Harry Noel-Smith, Henry Bradley, Chris Bibby and op­er­a­tions man­ager Shan­non Pod­more will work along­side Wit­tenoom Hills farmer Ash­ley Re­ich­stein, far right, to reap this year’s har­vest on Ba­roona, a prop­erty farmed by Mr Re­ich­stein and part­ner Me­gan McDowall.

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