Showers tease parched land

Jo Fulwood and Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Thirsty crops were given a reprieve earlier this week with season- changing rainfall recordings of up to 20mm in parts of the central Wheatbelt and more than 25mm toward the northern coastal areas.

However, many growers are still desperate for more.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA development officer Rob Grima said the south-west fringe of the northern agricultural region enjoyed excess rainfall.

However, farmers in the north-east of the region missed out on significant rains.

Mr Grima said areas such as Yuna and Mullewa were among those that missed out on a lot of the much-needed rainfall.

Yuna received 5mm and Wandana just 3mm, while in Mullewa many farmers recorded less than 5mm.

"It was thunderstorm activity so a lot of hit-and-miss even on farms within a short distance of each other, but it's fair to say most people had between 5 and 12mm," he said.

For these particularly parched areas, Mr Grima said it was possibly too late for some paddocks.

"There are definitely paddocks out there that have suffered significant yield losses," he said.

On a brighter note, Mr Grima said rainfall was forecast for the next week and, along with the State's farmers, he would keep his fingers crossed.

"If this happens, these farmers could still get close to average yields," he said.

"Until that happens the situation is looking critical for these farmers, and in some paddocks it will soon be getting past the point of no return."

In the north-eastern Wheatbelt, Wilgoyne farmer Steve Palm said he had only received 100mm for the growing season.

He received just 1.5mm on Sunday night.

Mr Palm said with no sub-soil moisture to speak of going into the season, the crops were now thinning out and pushing up in head.

"I've never had a crop come out in head in July before, but it has happened this year," he said.

Mr Palm said while his crops were still looking green at this stage in the season, in the past three weeks his yield potential had almost halved, from 1.5t/ha down to 0.8t/ha.

"Last year, we averaged 0.7t/ha on 120mm of rainfall, but the two years prior we only managed to average 0.5t/ha on 100mm growing season rainfall," he said.

"At this stage, if conditions keep going like this, I will have a 800-1000ha that won't even see a header.

"Things are certainly tight, there are no notches left in the belt.

"But hopefully it will rain and we will get there; we still have a long way to go yet.

"We really need 25mm to save our crops."

By contrast, Mr Grima said around Badgingarra and some other west Midlands areas, farmers have had more than an inch of rain.

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