Capacity threat to bumper harvest

By Tim Slater, Corrina Ridgway and Alex McKinnonCountryman

The Esperance region is set for a bin-bursting harvest with the crop size expected to be almost double that of last year, which could provide a major boost for the local economy.

The 2013-14 harvest could be the biggest in the region's history with the current estimate of the crop size at 2.5 million tonnes, compared with 1.5mt last year and the previous record of 2mt in 2003.

It is set to provide a major logistics challenge for CBH, which is finishing off expansions of three sites at Chadwick, on the outskirts of town, Cascades and Beaumont to accommodate an extra 250,000 tonnes of grain.

But that still won't be enough to store all the grain expected to start flooding into CBH sites in earnest from next week.

CBH Esperance Zone manager Mick Daw is encouraging farmers to store as much as they can on-farm to help ease congestion.

Mr Daw said CBH had developed three main strategies to cope with the harvest - extra storage, more ships and encouraging farmers to store grain on-farm.

At Ridley Plains, 75km north-east of Esperance, harvesters are already in full swing as Scott and Jane Wandel's harvest leaps ahead.

The Wandels started harvest on October 7 on standing barley, and rowed Stingray canola was pulled in a few days later.

The majority of the 1700ha of canola is now delivered and Scott and his team are making quick work of 3300ha of barley, including 800ha Gairdner, 300ha Baudin and 2100ha of Hindmarsh while eyeing off 3400ha of wheat, 400ha of vetches and 1500ha of peas

The early advancement of the Wandels' barley harvest has little to do with seeding time.

"We had canola sown by April 14 and aimed to start the cereals on Anzac Day. Then we got 50mm rain and had to wait four days, so we actually sowed on April 28," Scott said.

Barley has been tackled early to beat the later onslaught on receival points that Scott believes will occur throughout the region as the record harvest gears up.

Four hundred hectares of barley taken off wet in the first week is now on store in dry bags.

"We will blend it out at the end of harvest," Scott said.

Fine weather has now brought the moisture down.

"We have started early to get the majority of it (barley) out of the way. Co-operative Bulk Handling will be struggling to keep up when everyone starts," Scott said.

The move is paying off.

Ridley Plains has more than 1000 tonnes on store and delivered more than 1600 tonnes to date.

With canola yields averaging around 1.3 to 1.4 tonne, barley is looking like a tidy 3.5 to 4.5 tonne/ha.

And Scott is keen to see wheat passing through knife blades.

"We sowed about 80 per cent Mace but due to the wet start, upped the seeding rates. We had to scrounge around to get enough seed to finish and used up some old seed that would have been no good in a few years," Scott said.

The gamble paid off, with thick swathes of wheat turning Ridley Plains gold.

With six machines and a run of fine weather, the pace is quickening. Meanwhile, CBH Geraldton Zone manager Duncan Gray said the northern zone was only just getting started due to some late rain over the past week.

"We are starting to get some sizeable canola loads in from Geraldton and the first wheatload from east of Geraldton and Yuna, about 150 tonnes, was received last week," he said.

_"Canola from Northampton is starting to come in, but we are probably a week to 10 days away before the northern zone really gets going. _

_"We have about 3000 tonnes of grain received so far, our estimates are still at 1.8 million tonnes for the zone in total." _

_Mr Gray said the late rain had put the wheat harvest back, with green shoots still showing in farms north and south of Geraldton. _

_As for quality, he said the canola was lower than farmers were hoping for and the lupins had also been a bit of "a mixed bag so far". _

_"The yields are below what growers thought," Mr Gray said. _

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