Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman.

Grass Patch growers seed into moisture for first time in 3 years

Main Image: Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Pictures: Shannon Verhagen, Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

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For the first time in years, Grass Patch’s Ash Bowman started his family farm’s seeding program with a handy dose of subsoil moisture following widespread summer rains across the State’s grainbelt.

And with it, following their first delving trials, they hope this season will be one to remember.

The third generation grower farms with his parents Leon and Natalie about 20km west of the tight-knit farming community.

Together, they crop wheat, barley, canola, peas and for the first time, beans, as well as running about 60 head of Angus cattle rotated on 400ha blocks across 9000ha.

And with the past three years some of their driest — with little more than 200mm falling during the whole of 2019 — this year’s rain was welcomed with open arms.

The region about 80km north of Esperance was declared water deficient by the State Government in December 2019, with the Bowmans needing to cart water internally as dams ran dry.

It saw them drop a portion of their canola plantings from their rotation last year in lieu of wheat, requiring less water for germination.

Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly.
Camera IconGrass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

But with 2021’s rainfall having hit triple figures earlier this month, this season is off to a promising start.

“We got pretty lucky, we had about 16-18mm to start seeding earlier,” Mr Bowman said.

We’ve had about 100mm for the year so far. It’s good to actually seed into some moisture for once.

Ash Bowman

The qualified diesel mechanic has been back on-farm with his parents for the past six years, after moving away for boarding school and completing his apprenticeship in Esperance.

He has maintained strong ties with the local community, as a keen footy player with the Esperance District Football Association’s Gibson Tigers. Being involved in the community is a trait that runs in the family, with his father on several farming committees including the Farm and General board and his mother a former Esperance Shire vice-president and councillor.

Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly.
Camera IconGrass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

For the 28-year-old, the decision to return to the farm was an easy one.

I always wanted to come back to the farm.

Ash Bowman

“It gives you a lot of freedom, it’s a nice place to bring up your family and you can see all the work you put into it.”

And he is joined-at-the-hip by his trusty sidekick, three-year-old border collie Tilly.

“She spends a lot of time sleeping on the tractor cab floor,” he laughed.

Tilly in the stubbles.
Camera IconTilly in the stubbles.

This year, he is looking forward to seeing the results of the family’s first foray into delving, which they have trialled over 20ha and recently seeded over.

The sandy topsoil just blows away and the rain runs straight off the sand. . .so we’re bringing the clay up.

Ash Bowman

“It’s just to stop the sand blow-outs getting bigger — nothing germinates on them.”

“Hopefully we can spread it out, plough it and smudge it with the smudge bar a couple of times just to level it out ... otherwise it destroys the whole paddock.”

It should also help with root penetration, he said.

Grass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly.
Camera IconGrass Patch farmer Ash Bowman with his helper Tilly. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

It was an option they decided to explore this year by hiring the machinery themselves, after having trialled clay spreading previously, which he said was a “bigger job” that they had to call a contractor in for.

“We might look at buying one if it works,” Mr Bowman said.

“We’ve still got a fair bit of area we can do.”

Looking ahead, Mr Bowman — who has been working around the clock to get crops in the ground over the past couple of weeks — hoped the rain would continue steadily throughout the growing season.