Wait­ing pa­tiently for rain

Grow­ers need rain­fall for win­ter crop plant­ing

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY - CAS­SAN­DRA GLOVER Cas­san­[email protected]­ral­weekly.com.au

WIN­TER plant­ing sea­son is well and truly un­der way, but many grow­ers are still wait­ing for the ar­rival of much-needed rain­fall.

South Fel­ton farmer Michael Meara usu­ally grows chick­peas, bar­ley and wheat dur­ing the win­ter sea­son, but at the end of June he is still hold­ing out for rain.

“We’re go­ing to need a good three inches to think about any­thing re­ally,” Mr Meara said.

“Last year I grew chick­peas, bar­ley and a bit of wheat.

“I’ll put the same in this year if we get enough rain, oth­er­wise I’ll wait over for the sum­mer crop.”

Mr Meara said the Fel­ton area had a fairly long win­ter plant­ing sea­son and he could hold out as late as July through to early August.

“It’s dry and it’s a worry, but I’ve had a rea­son­able sum­mer crop so I’m not too con­cerned,” he said.

“But if it con­tin­ues into sum­mer, I’ll be wor­ried.

“The fore­cast isn’t look­ing too good at the mo­ment.”

Se­nior agron­o­mist Paul McIn­tosh said the prime plant­ing time for win­ter crops was from May to June.

“How­ever in the past we have planted crops in late June-July,” he said.

“In some cases we have even planted as late as August.”

Mr McIn­tosh said the dis­ad­van­tage of late plant­ing was it risked sub­ject­ing the win­ter crops to warmer tem­per­a­tures, how­ever there were still some ad­van­tages.

“Wheat and bar­ley don’t like tem­per­a­tures above 30 de­grees max­i­mum. They will de­velop their best yields in a cool spring,” he said.

“Last year we planted in April-May and we got hit with some frosts. This year we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be sub­ject to warmer springs.

“The ad­van­tage of plant­ing later is there is less risk of frost dam­age to the re­pro­duc­tion stage of wheat bar­ley and chick­peas.”

Mr McIn­tosh said late plant­ings could still pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant yield.

“I had one grower who planted Seamer chick­peas in July and yielded 2-3 tonnes per hectare, which is a pretty handy yield,” he said.

“It’s not ideal by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion plant­ing in July, but we can do it.”

This year has had a large in­crease in dry plant­ings, ac­cord­ing to Mr McIn­tosh.

“Some peo­ple have planted dry. It’s the big­gest dry plant­ing we’ve seen in the North­ern River, ever,” he said.

“You can do it with wheat and bar­ley but you can’t re­ally do it with chick­peas. It might get you into trou­ble where it brings the seed up and then it dies, or it might be the best idea since sliced bread.

“Most peo­ple haven’t planted yet, most peo­ple are wait­ing pa­tiently for that late rain­fall. They’re wait­ing to see what rain they get and what pad­docks they can plant – if they can plant any.

“There is mass black soil out there, there aren’t many crops around at the mo­ment.”

Mr McIn­tosh said there were agro­nomic and eco­nomic rea­sons to plant a win­ter crop.

“There are agro­nomic rea­sons for the stub­ble from the wheat or bar­ley crops, and then the cash flow from the win­ter crops,” he said.

“You’ve got to be think­ing a bit fur­ther ahead than, ‘Oh it’s too late to plant, we’ll just wait for a sum­mer crop.’

“You’ve got to sur­vive un­til sum­mer and you’ve got to have some stub­ble so any sum­mer storms that come don’t just wash the soil straight into the river.”

Read more on this in Paul McIn­tosh’s col­umn on Page 12

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO: ANEST

Michael Meara on his prop­erty in South Fel­ton. TOO DRY: Well into plant­ing sea­son, farm­ers are wait­ing pa­tiently for win­ter rain­fall.

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