Breakdown a season-saver

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Peter and Simon Kerin take a break from harvesting their Latrobe barley in what has been a disappointing year for their cereal and canola crops because of the impact of repeated frosts through September and early October.
Camera IconPeter and Simon Kerin take a break from harvesting their Latrobe barley in what has been a disappointing year for their cereal and canola crops because of the impact of repeated frosts through September and early October. Credit: Laura Grubisa

A frustrating sprayer breakdown during seeding could have saved the 2016 season for Katanning farmers Peter and Daphne Kerin.

Repeated frosts have hit their barley, wheat, and canola crops, but the later-sown crops, those that went in after the breakdown, appear to be less affected.

The Kerins, who farm with their two sons Matthew and Simon and their wives Sharon and Chrissy, estimate up to 50 per cent of yields in the barley have been lost due to the frosts, and the early sown canola also took a significant hit.

The business planted more than 3000ha to wheat, oats, barley, lupins and canola, which includes some share-farming.

“The sprayer breakdown delayed our seeding program by 10-14 days, but as a result, the later- sown crops are really paying off,” Mr Kerin said.

“We’ve been a bit lucky in that regard. It could have been much worse but this breakdown may have done us a favour.”

Mr Kerin said the canola yielded about 1.2t/ha across the farm but the crop had looked significantly better than the end result.

“It was definitely disappointing,” he said. “One paddock of GM canola was going up near 3t/ha in some places, and in only a matter of 100m, it was down to 50kg/ha because of the frost.

“The later-sown canola went much better which was really pleasing.”

The business is now harvesting barley and although Mr Kerin said it was an excellent-looking crop all year, the yields had been disappointing,

“It’s not a surprise, we knew it was going to be bad,” he said,

“But it’s been an unusual frost effect in that the heads are missing intermittent grains. I think that was because of the repeated frosts we had right through September and early October.”

Mr Kerin said despite this, the barley quality had been excellent.

“We have just lost grain and yield,” he said. “But the loads are all going malt.”

Mr Kerin estimates the property experienced up to seven different frost events throughout the flowering period.

Despite the impact of the frost on the crops, the Kerins produced their best hay crop ever. Mr Kerin said the business had been cutting hay for the past seven years, and although it was labour intensive, it had paid dividends this year.

“We averaged about 7t/ha of hay, which was incredible given that our average has been around 4.5t/ha,” he said. “It was all good quality hay and it will go a long way towards compensating for the frosted grain crops.”

He said he hoped the wheat crops would fare better than the barley and canola.

“We haven’t got into the wheat yet but the crops look good so we are hoping we’ll come out with our average, or slight better,” he said.

“We just need to live to go round and round again,” he said.

CBH Albany zone manager Greg Thornton said it was all systems go across the Albany zone with 550,000 tones delivered last week, out of a total received to date of 900,000 tonnes. Mr Thornton said although canola and barley yields were looking better than anticipated, there was some frost damaged grains evident in the deliveries.

He said to date, the zone had only received 10,000 tonne of wheat, with frost damage evident in some of these deliveries also.

“As a result, we have introduced additional segregations to accommodate this weather affected GP1 (WGP1) grain in the north-eastern part of the zone,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the Geraldton region, farmers are two-thirds of the way through harvest, and some in the northern region may be finished by the end of the week, according the CBH Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray.

Mr Gray estimated the zone had already received 2.4-2.5 million tonnes, out of a predicted 3.2 million tonnes. He said receival sites had been closed last Sunday because of the failure of two ships at the port to pass survey.

Storage was now tight across the zone, particularly at the Port, Northampton and Mingenew.

CBH Esperance zone Manager Mick Daw said the warm weather had allowed for an exceptional harvest run, with receivals now sitting at 1.5 million tonnes for the zone.

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