Rains prompt early starts

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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The Mason family, of east Perenjori, expect to start seeding canola within days - two weeks earlier than their normal start.

The early start follows 70mm of rain in the past 30 days on the property Brendan Mason farms with parents Tony and Karolyn.

On Tuesday afternoon there was a further 100mm forecast for later this week in their area.

The 10-year average rainfall on the Masons' farm is just 310mm, so the recent rains and promising forecasts could mean one of their best starts yet.

Brendan Mason said the family would start planting 400ha of triazine-tolerant canola in the next few days, and then move on to their 10,000ha mace wheat planting program straight after.

Mr Mason said his family's long-term average for wheat was about 1.3 tonnes/ha and about 0.4 tonnes/ha for canola.

The promising start this year has boosted his confidence for a better than average yield.

Mr Mason said he did not plant GM canola because it was too risky in his area.

"In a low rainfall area GM canola is too much of a gamble as the seed is so expensive," he said.

Mr Mason said to help get the huge cropping program in the ground they hired four seasonal staff to support the existing two full-time staff, who, along with he and his father, would work around the clock.

"The early start should help our yields, but it also means the weeds are harder to combat, so there is an extra spraying requirement," he said.

A new development for the Masons this year will be an increased fertiliser application to give the crops a nitrogen boost.

The Masons' confidence has been echoed throughout WA's grainbelt, after generous rains in many areas and further rain forecast this week.

Many areas, particularly north around Geraldton, are expected to start seeding canola earlier than usual after generous summer rains which have helped to build sub soil moisture.

Further boosting confidence is a bullish three-month forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA northern agricultural region project manager Rob Grima said in the northern and eastern fringe of WA there were many farmers "champing at the bit" to get started after generous summer rains.

In the week to 9am on Tuesday, Yuna had received a further 32mm, and Mullewa and Eradu 16mm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

"The only thing holding these farmers back is the uncertainty of how crops would behave if sown so early in the season," he said.

"Crops would definitely germinate due to the amount of rain, but growers are not sure how they will behave. For example, would they run up quickly and then forego yield?"

Further south, Esperance received 20mm and Salmon Gums 22mm in the past week.

The central Wheatbelt was drier. While Northam received 11mm for the seven days, Wongan Hills, York, Dowerin and Narembeen each received around 2-3mm.

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