Ce­re­als a sil­ver lin­ing in tough year for Craig

Countryman - - NEWS - Melissa Wil­liams and Cally Dupe

Yeal­er­ing grower Craig Jes­persen this week started bal­ing his fam­ily’s worst frost-dam­aged wheat crops for hay, af­ter a cou­ple of weeks of spo­radic show­ers had slowed the process down.

But he said de­spite the in­clement weather be­ing chal­leng­ing for bal­ing, it was ben­e­fi­cial for ce­real crops that ap­peared to have re­gained some lost ground from frosts and a lack of rain in win­ter and early spring.

Mr Jes­persen, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion grain grower, crops 2300ha across two prop­er­ties.

These farms re­ceived only 60mm in the rain gauge in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, then 180mm in the grow­ing sea­son, 3-4mm in Septem­ber and 25mm so far in Oc­to­ber.

Much of Mr Jes­persen’s crop was dry sown and the 460ha canola crop had very poor es­tab­lish­ment be­fore be­ing hit hard with early spring frost.

Mr Jes­persen said about 75ha of the 850ha wheat pro­gram that was “in ear” had also been badly frost dam­aged this year and the de­ci­sion was made to cut it for hay, given the fam­ily was al­ready set up for ex­port hay pro­duc­tion.

He said this was the first time since 2012 they had de­cided to cut and bale frost-af­fected wheat.

“There is ac­tu­ally grain form­ing in these crops and they still have po­ten­tial, even though yield loss might be any­where from 10 to 30 per cent,” Mr Jes­persen said.

“We typ­i­cally get hit by frost ev­ery year on our home prop­erty, but our yields tend to av­er­age-out OK.”

Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment re­search of­fi­cer Ben Biddulph said ce­real and canola crops in the low rain­fall ar­eas of WA’s south­ern and south-east­ern grain­belt ap­peared worst hit by spring frosts and sub­se­quent dry con­di­tions this year. He said yield losses from frost in early-sown ce­re­als in these ar­eas and losses from lack of rain in late-sown crops were 60-80 per cent on some prop­er­ties.

Pic­ture: Cally Dupe

Yeal­er­ing farmer Craig Jes­persen has har­vested some of his wheat crop af­ter frost dam­age.

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