Unpredictable year beats the average

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Tayla (4), Jayden (9) and Tasmin Clarke (8), the children of Goomalling shire farmers Jarrad and Peta Clarke, at CBH’s Avon grain silos.
Camera IconTayla (4), Jayden (9) and Tasmin Clarke (8), the children of Goomalling shire farmers Jarrad and Peta Clarke, at CBH’s Avon grain silos. Credit: Simon Santi

WA grain growers have defied see-sawing yield estimates and weather conditions to deliver an above-average 13.26 million tonne harvest.

CBH called time on WA’s 2017-18 harvest last week, with just a trickle of grain expected at sites during the next few weeks.

The 13.26 million tonne haul is higher than CBH’s 10-year average of 12 million tonnes but well short of last year’s record 16.61 million tonne harvest.

CBH general manager of operations David Capper said the dry winter conditions prompted the grain handler’s initial lower estimates of between 9.5 and 10 million tonnes. He said good finishing rains prompted the figure to be revised upwards twice.

“This is a significant turnaround for most of the State, in July and August most people were expecting a below-average (WA) crop,” Mr Capper said.

“At certain areas in the Geraldton Port Zone, we had estimates of sub-500,000 tonnes in July and then ended up receiving 1.5 million tonnes.

“That’s not to say everyone in that zone experienced the turnaround. It was mainly the western parts of the zone that the big increase came from.”

In addition to grain received by CBH, it is estimated a further one million tonnes is produced each year but delivered via other sources or retained on farm.

The recent harvest delivered better than expected results for Goomalling farmers Peta and Jarrad Clarke, who farm wheat and sheep 15km from Toodyay.

The couple, who have four children — Tayla, 4, Jayden, 9, Tasmin, 8, and Alicia, 12 — were busy planning their annual budget on Tuesday.

“We were lucky enough to get a bit of finishing rain which helped the crop along,” Mrs Clarke said.

“It was a bit down on last year, which was one of our record harvests, but still better than anticipated originally.”

A number of records were broken during the 2017-18 harvest, with 22 sites breaking their one-day receival record and 14 sites their best harvest season.

CBH said most of the record-breaking sites were in the Albany and Esperance Zones, and the southern end of the Kwinana Zone.

In the north-eastern Wheatbelt, Koorda farmers Michelle and Steve Nicholls harvested about a third the grain of their record 2016-17 harvest.

CBH’s 100 super bins received 96 per cent of the total crop, up from 94 per cent last year.

The pair wrapped up their four-week harvest program on December 1, about two weeks earlier than usual, but agreed yields were better than they initially thought.

Dry winter conditions meant they sprayed out 200ha of canola.

“It’s one year gone that you don’t get back, but we are hoping for an average year this year,” Mr Nicholls said. “Normally, it takes us about six weeks but we were just over a third of the amount of grain from the year before, which was very good.”

The family has farmed 5000ha across two blocks close to Koorda’s townsite since 1978.

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