Good falls bring on a sunnier outlook for farmers

Jenne Brammer, Cally Dupe and Shannon SmithCountryman
Lucas, 7, Scarlett, 2, and Vienna, 5, McGregor at their family farm north-east of Millewa.
Camera IconLucas, 7, Scarlett, 2, and Vienna, 5, McGregor at their family farm north-east of Millewa. Credit: Justine Rowe

Opening rains have stretched across most of the State’s grain belt, with recent showers bringing new hope to farmers near Esperance and Albany.

The two traditionally wet areas received showers during the past week, helping grain growers get their programs off to a start.

The front brought 15mm of rain to Albany over Saturday and Sunday, while Kendenup recorded 28mm and North Stirlings received 35mm.

Narrogin received almost 40mm, taking the monthly total for the Wheatbelt town to 60mm.

It follows a tough few weeks for Albany port zone farmers after a bushfire destroyed more than 17,000ha including pasture and livestock in South Stirling.

Dust storms have also removed topsoil across the Esperance and Albany region following one of the driest autumns on record.

Grain Industry Association of WA spokesman Michael Lamond said good rains of up to 70mm, which started in late May, had put more than half of the Wheatbelt on track for an above-average season.

He said it was heartening that the downpour had reached farmers in the northern Wheatbelt, around Mullewa, and eastern parts including Beacon, Wialki and Bonnie Rock, who missed out on early rain last year.

Crops in those areas were in sound shape, Mr Lamond said.

“Meanwhile, north of Geraldton down to Perth and over to Moora, farmers are celebrating one of the best starts to the season they’ve had in many years,” he said.

North-east of Mullewa, Scott and Jenna McGregor said a hot and dry April and May originally had them feeling nervous. But the farmers have received 22mm of rainfall during the past weeks, putting their program of all wheat in good stead.

“This is one of the best starts since 2015,” Mr McGregor said. “Our crops are looking good, we are doing a bit of grass spray and some nitrogen application. In the next month we are hoping for some more rain, if we get a couple of millimetres every 10 days or so that will be very helpful.”

The McGregors are well ahead compared with last year, when their property received almost no rain until the end of July.

“All of our crops are out of the ground,” Mr McGregor said. “We were initially a bit worried when it was dry and very warm, with high 20s in May. It was a bit of a worry but it seems like someone clicked their fingers and it decided to rain.”

In the central Wheatbelt, Russell and Rebekah Burges’ property has received 60mm of rainfall since May 27, soaking paddocks across their 2100ha cropping program.

“It’s been a great start, and it looks like there’s more rain coming on Sunday, with a further 10mm forecast,” Mrs Burges said.

“We had about 80 per cent of our crop sown into dry soil before this rain arrived — crops have since germinated and are out of the ground.”

The rain means they will also be able to move their 1700 breeding ewes and lambs to newly established pastures within the next fortnight, ending the need for expensive hand feeding.

Not all farmers across the 8.2 million hectare cropping region are so lucky.

Mr Lamond said there were areas, particularly around Newdegate, Lake Grace and Kulin, which had received less than 12mm all autumn and into the start of winter.

Further south, in a strip from Mt Barker along the coast towards Esperance, farmers have had virtually no rain during the past few weeks.

Locations such as Wellstead and Bremer Bay have recorded just 6mm this month.

These farmers have also encountered multiple severe wind storms in recent weeks.

“This has done huge damage, removing up to 20cm of top soil in some cases,” Mr Lamond said.

“It’s absolutely devastating for these farmers — the damage to soil will last well beyond this season.”

Rainfall totals(June 1-12)

  • Binnu 18mm
  • Chapman 22mm
  • Perenjori 13mm
  • Eneabba 45mm
  • Latham 23mm
  • Badgingarra 35mm
  • Watheroo 22mm
  • Kalannie 26mm
  • Beacon 23mm
  • Mukinbudin 23mm
  • Northam 34mm
  • New Norcia 70mm
  • Meckering 32mm
  • Tammin 25mm
  • Quairading 14mm
  • Trayning West 30mm
  • Narembeen 22mm
  • Mt Walker 1mm
  • Burracoppin South 18mm
  • Moorine Rock 21mm
  • Belka East 18mm
  • Kweda 11mm
  • Pingelly West 58mm
  • Wickepin 22mm
  • Williams 47mm
  • Narrogin 55mm
  • Wagin 40mm
  • Frankland River 38mm
  • Kendenup 37mm
  • Mt Barker 26mm
  • Nyabing 19mm
  • Woodanilling 30mm
  • Gnowangerup 14mm
  • Stirlings North 38mm
  • Wellstead 14mm
  • Manypeaks 22mm
  • Newdegate 12mm
  • Pingaring 17mm
  • Holt Rock 9mm
  • Lake King 20mm
  • Ravensthorpe 8mm
  • Cascade 11mm
  • Grass Patch 8mm
  • Mt Howick 12mm
  • Salmon Gums 12mm

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