Hit and miss

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Awestern Vic­to­rian grains har­vest is re­veal­ing a dra­matic con­trast in farm­ing for­tunes based on the vari­abil­ity of weather in­ci­dents, ge­og­ra­phy, crop diver­sity and sim­ple tim­ing.

While some farm­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing bumper re­sults, es­pe­cially in parts of the south­ern Mallee, oth­ers in the Western District hit hard by a one-in-50-year frost and in some cir­cum­stances fol­low-up hail, are pre­dict­ing dev­as­tat­ing losses across most crops.

In much of the Wimmera, farm­ers are mea­sur­ing har­vest suc­cess on a pad­dock-by-pad­dock sce­nario, with some crops such as canola re­turn­ing out­stand­ing re­sults and bar­ley pre­sent­ing well, while much of the regional pulse crop has been ru­ined by frost.

The dra­matic con­trast so far emerg­ing from the har­vest, al­most fin­ished in the Mallee, un­der­way in the Wimmera and edg­ing to­wards a start south of the Great Di­vide, has prompted Mem­ber for Lowan Emma Kealy to stress a need for com­mu­ni­ties to rally in sup­port of each other.

Ms Kealy, the Vic­to­rian Coali­tion’s men­tal-health rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said pre­dic­tions were that it would be a sea­son of ‘haves and have-nots’ as grow­ers ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery­thing from bumper re­sults to ex­ten­sive losses.

She said while some farm­ers might have out­stand­ing har­vests, their near neigh­bours might not be so lucky.

“We’re look­ing at what might be a sig­nif­i­cant con­trast with the po­ten­tial of re­sults based on a pad­dock-to-pad­dock and crop-to-crop assess­ment,” she said.

“That means while one farmer might have rea­son to cel­e­brate, a next-door neigh­bour might be dev­as­tated – such is the na­ture of cir­cum­stances this har­vest.

“What’s im­por­tant is that ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties again come to­gether in re­silient sol­i­dar­ity and tap into their rep­utable self-sup­port mech­a­nisms.

“The mes­sage, in other words, is that ev­ery­one makes sure they look out for each other.”

Ms Kealy said Wimmera-mallee farm­ers re­mained some of the best in the world, but the thing they could not ma­nip­u­late was the weather.

“It’s im­por­tant for farm­ers to know that the re­gion is well aware of what they achieve and what they con­trib­ute and we’ll al­ways stand with them,” she said.

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion Grains Group pres­i­dent Brett Hosk­ing said the ex­pec­ta­tion was for Vic­to­ria to end up with an ‘av­er­age’ grain har­vest.

“It is very hard to judge at the mo­ment. I would ex­pect the pulse dam­age in the Wimmera to drag things back,” he said.

“The ce­re­als have copped it from frost and hail in parts of the Western District, but they seemed to have sur­vived okay in other ar­eas.”

The har­vest story so far varies con­sid­er­ably de­pend­ing on re­gion.

Com­mer­cial grain com­pany Shannon Broth­ers, op­er­at­ing re­ceiv­ing and packing sites at Beu­lah and Hor­sham, re­ported solid re­sults from the south­ern Mallee har­vest.

The firm’s Clay­ton Shannon said re­sults at the Beu­lah site had been ‘go­ing very well’ with grain qual­ity hold­ing firm.

“Wheat has been go­ing strongly with a lot of high pro­tein,” he said.

“There have been some ter­rific yields and lentils have been fan­tas­tic – this ap­pears to be in stark con­trast to early re­sults in Hor­sham, which has been slow to start up.”

Mur­toa farmer Andy De­lahunty said he had been de­lighted with his canola har­vest, which was ‘up there with the best’ but added that his lentils crop was rel­a­tively poor.

“Ev­ery­thing for us is quite good ex­cept the lentils, and we’re a while off har­vest­ing the wheat,” he said.

South of Ararat, cir­cum­stances ap­pear con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent, with much of the frost dam­age in­volv­ing ce­real crops such as wheat.

But again the har­vest ap­pears likely to pro­duce hit-and-miss re­sults.

Gorst Ru­ral di­rec­tor and agron­o­mist Cam Con­boy said the early Novem­ber frost had af­fected a broad area stretch­ing from south of Ararat, Wil­laura, Wick­liffe and Lake Bo­lac to Buan­gor and Skip­ton.

“Any­where north-east of Lake Bo­lac seems to be the worst hit,” he said.

“To the un­trained eye the wheat crops look bril­liant – that’s un­til you open the heads.

“In some ways it’s worse than a bush­fire. At least with a bush­fire you know what has been hit.

“With this type of frost dam­age you need to have a good look.

“There have been some wipe­outs and while ev­ery­one wants to know a mag­i­cal num­ber when it comes to tonnes and dol­lars the truth is we just don’t know yet.”

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Jaala Pul­ford and Op­po­si­tion leader Matthew Guy have vis­ited Western District grain-grow­ing re­gions to gain in­sight into the scope of crop dam­age.

Ms Pul­ford joined grow­ers for a fact-find­ing mis­sion at Langi Logan south of Ararat and Mem­ber for Ripon Louise Sta­ley joined Mr Guy on a sim­i­lar tour at Trawalla.

Ms Sta­ley said it was im­por­tant farm­ers felt they had sup­port.

“This has caught many by sur­prise and mil­lions of dol­lars worth of crops have been wiped out,” she said.

Storms fea­tur­ing ar­eas of heavy rain and hail at the week­end also added to the anx­i­ety of grow­ers across the re­gion.

Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

LOOKS CAN BE DE­CEIV­ING: Agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Jaala Pul­ford in­spects a frost-af­fected wheat crop at Langi Logan south of Ararat with farm­ers Bruce Mckay and Andy Laid­law.

KEEP­ING WATCH: Lottie Bed­di­son, 10 months, over­sees har­vest from the truck at her fam­ily’s prop­erty at Kal­kee. Has har­vest started at your place? Share your photos with us by email­ing [email protected]­era­dio.com.au or via The Weekly Ad­vertiser Face­book page.

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