CBH revises crop forecast

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

WA crop production could surpass the long-term average of 10.6 million tonnes despite a record dry June.

CBH is now forecasting between 9.5 and 10.8 million tonnes will be harvested across the State, which is significant change from predictions just two weeks ago of a below-average season.

Both the Esperance and Albany port zones are predicted to have above-average yields, with many areas such as Hyden, Kalgarin, the Lakes District and Salmon Gums experiencing some of their best seasonal conditions for five years.

According to CBH general manager operations David Capper, predictions for a 2.1 to 2.4 million tonne crop in the Esperance zone could potentially set a new record for production in that area.

Albany zone is predicted to produce 2.5 million tonnes.

However, he said both the Geraldton and Kwinana zones were expected to have below-average yields.

"In the Geraldton zone, predictions at the moment are for a 1.2-1.8 million tonne crop, which is slightly below average," Mr Capper said.

"In Kwinana we are expecting between 3.8 million and 4.2 million tonnes, and the average for that zone is 5 million tonnes.

"Farms north and east of Merredin have had a tough year and there is also an area between Ballidu, Cadoux and Kalannie that is struggling, but the rest of the zone has picked up quite a lot in the last few weeks."

However, Mr Capper warned that growers would be relying on a long wet spring to finish the crop and achieve an above-average result across the State.

Andrew Todd, who farms 4000ha at Minnivale, east of Dowerin, said it would only be a break-even year for his business.

He said despite a good run during seeding, where the majority of crop was sown into moisture, the dry six-week period in May and June had limited the crop potential.

"Because of the dry six weeks we had, we have been limited in what we can do with weed control, and have been extremely conservative with nitrogen application," Mr Todd said.

"We didn't spray for a fortnight in June and even in first half of July we were concerned that weeds and crops were too stressed to put herbicides over them. So we are playing catch up now."

Mr Todd said he planned to spray out his lupin crop.

"We are not going to harvest our lupins," he said. "We sowed them into poor conditions, they were half wet and half dry. We did get some of them up early, but the balance didn't come up till about a fortnight later and as a result they've lost a lot of vigour. Add a six weeks dry spell, and they are extremely sparse, they are under-developed."

Mr Todd said he had revised his budget predictions, and was only anticipating a yield result of 1.4 t/ha on his wheat, despite the longer-term average being about 2t/ha.

"We've had about 100mm for the entire growing season, that's including April," he said. "Its dryer to this point in the year than it was in 2002, which was our worst production year in the last 30 years.

"But we have to remember that there are farmers out east who won't even get seed back, so we are pretty positive about the fact that we should be able to break even."

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