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GIWA crop report: Warm weather weighs on growers nearing the second half of the seeding season

Olivia FordCountryman
The Grains Industry Association of WA’s May 2024 crop report has revealed a mixed bag for growers, with some lucky to score from the early May cold front, while others are still waiting for the dry spell to break.
Camera IconThe Grains Industry Association of WA’s May 2024 crop report has revealed a mixed bag for growers, with some lucky to score from the early May cold front, while others are still waiting for the dry spell to break. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

While recent “sporadic” rainfall has been a help for some grain growers, persistent warm weather is leaving many more nervous for the upcoming growing season, according to the Grains Industry Association of WA’s latest report.

The May 2024 crop report comes as WA growers near the second half of seeding, and while GIWA crop report author Michael Lamond said there was still time for more rain, growers could not help feeling concerned.

“A warm winter can produce a record crop, as was the case in 2022, although in that year there was good early moisture in the profile to start the season off, together with a long, soft finish,” he said.

“Soil moisture profiles are historically very dry this year, and the light falls of rain are either being sucked up like a sponge or are evaporating before it soaks in.”

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Mr Lamond said most regions had planted more than half of the intended area and were continuing to plant dry.

GERALDTON

The zone has been primarily “very dry”, but recent thunderstorms have brought up crop in small, concentrated areas in the east.

Mr Lamond said most of the northern grain regions missed out from the rainfall, and the coastal areas had had nothing yet.

Growers have been dry-seeding for several weeks and will continue until they have about 80 per cent of their planned programs in the ground.

“There is about half the intended wheat planting sown to date, mostly on the canola and lupin stubbles and the well-managed fallow country,” Mr Lamond said.

“As growers push on to the lower potential yielding paddocks, the brakes will come on until it rains.”

The dry weather meant the canola area had been cut back to around 30-40 per cent of intended hectares, and there had been a “hold” on lupin plantings, with very few paddocks sown, Mr Lamond said.

“Most growers will wait until around the 25th May to decide if they abandon lupins altogether this year, and a week later for wheat,” he said.

KWINANA

The North Midlands has had a “storm lotto”, with hit-and-miss rainfall, which has led to patchy establishment across paddocks.

The lupin and canola areas are set, with growers having moved on to dry-sowing wheat at a “steady pace”.

Mr Lamond said oats would be up “marginally” as good prices caused growers to come back to the grain.

In the south, growers have cut the canola area back, and Mr Lamond tipped a 10 per cent reduction to the planned canola program.

The planned barley area has increased slightly on 2023, and the lupin area change from 2023 is expected be small.

In the North East Zone, central grain-growing regions in low-rainfall areas had 10mm-20mm south of Great Eastern Highway, but the area north of the highway missed out on most of the rain.

Mr Lamond said there were very few crops up, and those that had germinated needed follow-up rain soon.

He said the region could still grow profitable crops if there was rain in the next three weeks.

ALBANY

Mr Lamond said the Albany West zone had gone from “grim to good” in the space of a week thanks to earlier rainfall, with the west having received 30mm, and the eastern regions getting 15mm.

Most growers have made good headway with their seeding programs, with canola finished and most of the barley to be in shortly.

Mr Lamond tipped the canola and oat area to be up a little from 2023.

Sun clovers germinating on a West Manjimup property from showers in early May.
Camera IconSun clovers germinating on a West Manjimup property from showers in early May. Credit: Jamie Nicolaou

Growers in the South zone have sown most of the canola, with “no substantial changes” to the planned crop area mix.

Mr Lamond said growers in the south would continue to plant the rest of their cereals dry over the next four weeks.

The Albany East zone received “reasonable” rainfall, and with the subsoil moisture from the summer storms, Mr Lamond said the area had been “set up well for this time of the year”.

“The rainfall was patchy, ranging from 5mm-30mm so not all growers are set, although most are confident enough to continue with planned programs now,” he said.

“Some paddocks are wet to depth and others are wet just on the surface, with more follow-up rain needed.”

Most of the barley programs are wrapping up, with growers soon to be swapping to wheat. Dry-sown canola is up, and growers are monitoring for bugs.

ESPERANCE

There were recent light falls with an average of 5mm-10mm in the region, which Mr Lamond said would be enough to keep crops that germinated at the end of April going “for the time being”.

Growers have moved into baiting for snails, earwigs and slaters following the rainfall, while the threat of green peach aphids and the diamondback moth attacking emerging canola crops has decreased because of the lack of a green bridge over the summer.

Mr Lamond said a lot of the sown crops were up, except for some “very dry pockets” in the zone’s eastern parts.

He said the crop areas were “generally patchy”, with some growers two-thirds done, and others still having up to two-thirds of their seeding programs to get through.

“There was a lot of soil wetter used and angle sowing this year, which has helped, although the whole area needs a good steady rain to even the crops up,” Mr Lamond said.

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