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GIWA Crop Report: 2022-23 WA harvest could beat 24.3Mt record by a ‘fair margin’ despite rain and hail

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Dinninup farmer and Rhodes Pastoral manager Michael Rhodes in his canola.
Camera IconDinninup farmer and Rhodes Pastoral manager Michael Rhodes in his canola. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

Despite major rain and hail events across the State in the past six weeks, a record-breaking harvest for WA growers remains a possibility after a “near-perfect” season and soft finish.

While the November forecast sits at 23.967 million tonnes, experts believe the bin-bursting crop has the potential to surpass last harvest’s 24.3Mt by a “fair margin” if the mild finish and consequently slow start to harvest continues.

Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman had so much rain fall on his family's property that roads turned into rivers.
Camera IconGrass Patch farmer Ash Bowman had so much rain fall on his family's property that roads turned into rivers. Credit: Ash Bowman/Supplied

It comes as Grain Industry Association of Western Australia’s latest report revised figures for WA’s 2022-23 harvest, adding another 800,000 tonnes to its October forecast of 23.147Mt.

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That total is set to be made up of 12.6Mt of wheat, 6.15Mt of barley, 3.98Mt of canola, 600,000 tonnes of lupins, 565,000 tonnes of oats and 72,000 tonnes of pulses.

The lion’s share is set to come from the Kwinana Port Zone (11.31Mt), followed by Albany (5.03Mt), Geraldton (3.977Mt) and Esperance (3.65Mt).

GIWA Crop Report author and agronomist Michael Lamond said while the slow start — which has seen some growers in the southern areas pushed back weeks — was likely annoying some, it would lead to benefits in the long run.

“Whilst this is frustrating for some growers wanting to get their crop off, it has fuelled the extra tonnes that will likely see this harvest exceed 2021’s record production,” he said.

“The mild finish to the season and rain in late August and early September, have combined to finish off a near perfect season across all grain growing regions of the State.

“Very little crop has been harvested to date across Western Australia for this time of the year, although what has been harvested has exceeded expectations by several hundred kilograms per hectare in nearly all cases for canola and wheat.

“If this continues as harvest marches south, total grain production for WA will exceed the record 24 million tonnes produced in 2021 by a fair margin.”

About 2.4Mt has been delivered across CBH’s receival network, 60 per cent of which has been canola.

In Boyup Brook, harvest will start later than usual for Rhodes Pastoral farm manager Michael Wright.

Dinninup farmer Michael Rhodes says October rains would bode well for his crops.
Camera IconDinninup farmer Michael Rhodes says October rains would bode well for his crops. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

The sprawling mixed sheep, cattle and cropping enterprise in Dinninup has received less rainfall than average this year, but a top up in late October will finish the 4850ha of crops off nicely.

Falls of up to 50mm fell across the Dinninup-Boyup Brook region, stopping balers in their tracks and resulting in one of the biggest crowds at the local Dinninup Agricultural Show as farmers waited for cut hay to dry.

Mr Wright said t had been a different season to last, but believed the October rain would bode well for the crops.

“It’s been a bit below average for us here, whereas all of the State has been above average,” he said.

“Last year we were really wet, with a lot of holes in the crops and we probably lost 10 per cent to waterlogging.

“This year, there’s no holes and we’ve just had anywhere from 25-50mm over the property and that’s certainly got the feed to hang on and finish the crops.

“In dollar terms, the yield gains we’re going to get and probably the oil content in the canola will far outweigh the little bit of hay we lost.”

More severe weather systems accompanied the rain in some areas, taking out isolated patches of crops, however a lack of frost and cool finish resulting in extra grain-fill should provide growers some relief.

The impacts of back-to-back hailstorms and heavy rains throughout the central Wheatbelt and south coast in October are beginning to wreak havoc with lodging, head loss and are anticipated to result in downgrades in quality.

“Grain loss from hail across the central and southern regions in the last two weeks is starting to add up and, whilst significant for individual growers, is not expected to impact the total tonnage of grain produced in Western Australia from being another record production year,” Mr Lamond said.

Of all the crops, Mr Lamond said canola crops across the State were an “absolute stand-out” and WA’s lupin crops were “exceptional”.

In the Geraldton port zone, where harvest kicked off in late September, canola crops are yielding 200-400kg/ha more than last year, with many paddock averages greater than 2.2t/ha, Mr Lamond said.

Kwinana North growers, who were among those impacted by October’s freak weather, are also seeing encouraging canola yields, with the better areas going 2-3t/ha.

Hail damaged crops in Cadoux.
Camera IconHail damaged crops in Cadoux. Credit: Shaun Kalajzic/Supplied

However, impacts of the storms are becoming apparent.

“Hail in some spots has totalled the canola, but cereals are mostly unaffected,” Mr Lamond said.

“Little wheat has been harvested to date, although dark areas are starting to show up in the low-lying areas likely due to frost.

“Lots of mice are being noticed under barley swaths that are still too wet to pick up with the header.”

Mr Lamond said growers in Kwinana North East were on track to have one of their best harvests in years, with some canola going more than 2t/ha.

“Unfortunately, for those that have been hit by the hail in the last few days, insurance estimates will probably be way too low,” he said.

Wild weather in Narembeen on Monday.
Camera IconWild weather in Narembeen on Monday. Credit: Jeremy Padfield/Supplied

In the Albany South Zone, growers hit by triple-digit rainfall during October are facing “serious trafficability issues” lodging, and crops sitting in water, with growers anxious for the sun to come out so they can get headers into paddocks.

Esperance Zone growers were also hit by the heavy rains, with snails, cereals falling over and rye-grass poking through crops with seed set all posing issues, but it should provide growers with good levels of subsoil moisture going into next year.

Rivers of water at Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman’s property.
Camera IconRivers of water at Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman’s property. Credit: Ash Bowman/Supplied

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