Farmers’ spirits lifted as rains drench Wheatbelt, setting up bumper 2021 crops

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Robbie Parker and Tom Rowe
Camera IconRobbie Parker and Tom Rowe Credit: Justine Rowe

WA’s grain farmers won’t start planting their crops until next month, but heavy widespread rains have delivered a major confidence boost for the season ahead.

Farmers across most of the Wheatbelt were beneficiaries of the unusual widespread rain and thunderstorms, with many receiving more rain in a day than normally delivered during the month of March.

This week’s rain has set up some farmers for their best start to the the season in at least three years. Previously dry dams in some areas of the Eastern Wheatbelt are now overflowing.

York received 75mm, Southern Cross 42mm, Wialki South 57mm, Bonnie Rock 50mm, Dalwallinu 103mm, Mullewa 57mm, Bolgart 65mm and Toodyay 86mm by 9am on Wednesday.

Farmers at Northam received 79mm to 9am Wednesday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. On Tuesday afternoon the town of Northam was flooded after a storm dumped 38mm in 25 minutes, and rain was continuing today.

BOM said more rain was expected today and tomorrow, including in Perth, with conditions gradually easing and contracting south and east from Friday.

Mullewa farmer Brendan Rowe said it was probably the best set up for the growing season in at least three years, after receiving between 20mm and 60mm across his farms.

“It’s certainly encouraging. It’s good to get the moisture in the ground and timing is good. We will have to spray the whole farm for weeds but it’s a small price to pay for getting that good moisture,” he said.

“And this rain is very widespread, it’s certainly lifted the spirits of many farmers.”

He said his seeding program would start immediately after Anzac Day.

BusinessAg consultant David Falconer said farmers who received rain in early March last year noted a huge difference to their yields.

“The rain is very positive provided 25-30mm is received. It doesn’t guarantee a good season as more is obviously needed, but it certainly provides a big head start,” he said.

York farmer Tony Seabrook said the rain was a major benefit because it would put moisture into the soil profile.

His farm near York received about 50mm by Wednesday afternoon.

“There is enormous benefit in having subsoil moisture,” Mr Seabrook, also President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, said.

“It’s like a massive insurance policy for our crops. Once seeded we just need a little rain to germinate seeds, and the subsoil moisture will be available to the crops soon after.

“While a very beneficial start to the seeding program, it is still just the first step on a long journey and there’s no way on its own it guarantees a good crop as there may be rain lacking at other times in the season.”

The downside of this week’s rain is that it would bring up summer weeds, meaning farmers will need to fork out on chemicals to spray paddocks in order to retain soil moisture.

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