Dry forces crop kill-off

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Growers in northern and central parts of the Wheatbelt are destroying their canola and lupins after a lack of rainfall caused poor crop establishment.

The Collins family, who farm 40km north-west of Morawa, are spraying out their entire lupin crop and more than a third of their canola.

"Our lupins are non-harvestable - we will desiccate the whole lot," he said.

"We are treating 500 hectares of canola as having harvest potential but 300ha of it will be taken out."

Garry said a four-week dry spell in May caused the problem.

"This year we are sitting on just 150mm for the growing season and we had very little sub-soil moisture," he said.

"We had 40mm of summer rain but that did not make much of a difference to carry on in the current crop."

He said they would treat those paddocks like fallow to minimise the weed burden for following years.

"Those crops are not going to produce a lot of grain, so our best option is to treat them as a fallow," Garry said.

The last time he desiccated crop was in 2002 when lupins were sprayed out.

"It was well and truly worth it - it set the paddocks up for the next five years," Garry said.

Morawa Farmanco consultant Laurence Carslake said a lot of growers in the region would follow suit.

"In soils with limited stored water crops got poor establishment and may not be harvested or may be treated as a fallow," he said.

"Some canola and lupin crops from the eastern and northern Wheatbelt fit into that category."

Mr Carslake said growers around Kalannie, Dalwallinu and Geraldton were in the same situation.

Geraldton Full Flag Agronomics consultant Simon Teakle said growers had to decide by the end of the month whether to spray out these paddocks. "People need to make a decision by the end of August if they want the full benefit of the fallow paddocks," Mr Teakle said.

He said crops in patches across the entire Geraldton zone would not be harvestable.

"It will be bits and pieces throughout the zone, and growers will only spray out the worst of it," he said.

The Collins planned to spray out their canola this week, followed by the lupins, with a glyphosate and ester-24D mix.

Garry said their wheat and barley crops looked reasonable, though in desperate need of more rain. About 5mm fell on the farm at the weekend which he said kept them in the game.

The family also run 1300 Merino breeding ewes plus lambs.

Fast facts *

WHO: Garry and Debbie, Brad and Linda, Jay and Travis Collins

WHERE: Gutha

WHAT: 6800ha of wheat, 800ha of canola, 240ha of lupins and 300ha of barley

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