What a turnaround

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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West Wongoondy farmers Brett Broad, Ian Broad and Jack Roberts have started harvest.
Camera IconWest Wongoondy farmers Brett Broad, Ian Broad and Jack Roberts have started harvest. Credit: Justine Rowe

Farmers in the Geraldton Port Zone say their crops have undergone the “biggest turnaround” they’ve seen, after receiving much-needed spring rainfall.

About 8241 tonnes of canola, feed barley, lupins and wheat had trickled into the CBH system at Geraldton by Tuesday morning, two weeks after the first delivery of 191 tonnes of canola was tipped into the bin on October 14.

Rain which fell between August and October boosted the area’s anticipated harvest to 1.29 million tonnes, up 12 per cent from prior estimates of one million tonnes.

It was the biggest reversal of fortunes Ian Broad had ever seen at his West Wongoondy family farm, about 40km north of Mingenew.

He said his crops had battled through a “rollercoaster” of dry conditions in June and July before they finally “came good” a few weeks ago.

Mr Broad pulled the header out of the shed and got to work last week, delivering his first load of 400 tonnes of barley on Friday to Geraldton port.

“It’s been a big turnaround, there is no doubt about that,” he said.

“We aren’t looking at a well-below-average season any more, most of our crops will be OK.

“The late rains in August and September gave us a good, cool finish and have averted what was going to be a real disaster for a lot of people.”

The next few weeks will be a hive of activity for the Broad family as they prepare to harvest 1400ha of lupins, 620ha of canola, and 2200ha of wheat.

Driving the chaser bin this year is farmhand Jack Roberts, while Mr Broad is on the header and his son Brett Broad manages the farm.

In the centre of the Geraldton Port Zone, at Mingenew, Justin Bagley’s spirits have lifted after more than 110mm of rainfall between August and September.

A few months ago, he did not know whether his farm could sustain a harvest, but pulled the header out of the shed on Tuesday ahead of next week’s start.

“It’s a big improvement on what the crops were, but the true condition will be known once we get in the paddock,” Mr Bagley said.

“It’s been a kind, soft finish and I am surprised at how the crops have got up and made something of themselves.

“It’s a late start for everyone up this way, most areas north of Geraldton would be 20 per cent of the way through by now.

“But you can’t ask for late rains and not have a late start. So there is no complaining here.”

East of Mullewa, at Tenindewa, Daniel Critch said he originally expected his crops to amount to just 0.5t/ha at harvest.

Now, he hopes to reap about 1.5t/ha once he kickstarts his “latest start to harvest ever”, next week.

“Parts of the farm didn’t germinate until the end of July and early August ... they now look like potentially being not-bad crops,” he said. “We have seen a tonne per hectare yield swing from the end of July to now.

“Our farm has never seen a turnaround as dramatic as that.

“It is such a positive for the graingrowing area.”

More than 3.5 million tonnes of grain was delivered across the Geraldton Port Zone last harvest as farmers enjoyed record yields.

In July, the Grains Industry of Western Australia estimated 30 per cent of intended crop area would not be harvested, but this number has dropped to about 10 per cent.

GIWA oilseeds council chair Michael Lamond said some growers had sprayed out crops and later received rain.

“They had to make a decision ... no one could’ve foreseen how soft the spring was going to be,” he said.

“But many growers who thought they wouldn’t get seed will get seed, and many who thought they wouldn’t have a harvest, will have a harvest. There are still some areas which aren’t good, particularly in the east and the southern area between the Geraldton Port Zone and northern Kwinana Zone.

“For some growers it is still not the best, but for many more it will be below average but not quite as disastrous.”

Esperance Port Zone has led the charge this harvest, with 35,376 tonnes of grain delivered across five bins by Tuesday.

CBH had opened 12 receival points across the grain belt by Tuesday morning, with Northampton and Yuna expected to open by the end of the week.

Bins open on Tuesday included Kellerberrin in Kwinana Port Zone, Carnamah and Mingenew in the Geraldton Port Zone, Mun-glinup, Cascade, Grass Patch, Beaumont, and Gairdner in the Esperance Port Zone, and Borden in the Albany Port Zone, while the ports at Geraldton, Esperance and Albany were also accepting grain.

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