Driest July but Geoff's still in the game

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Geoff Poultney likes to joke that he was not alone in participating in dry July this year.

Crops across his family's Pingelly farm were also left without a drink after the driest July on record.

The town's weather station recorded just 9.9mm for the month, well and truly shattering the previous record of 22.3mm, held since 1909.

By the time rain clouds finally rolled in last week, it was not a moment too soon.

Geoff said the crops looked surprisingly good considering just 12mm fell on his paddocks in July - it was frost, not the dry, that had hit the crops, particularly the canola, hardest.

He said after a good start to the season - 33mm in May and 54mm in June - things were looking positive until a series of frosts throughout July slowed down development.

"I think the crops have lost a bit of potential yield, especially in the canola," Geoff said.

Sunday's 12mm of rain has helped things along but the Pingelly farmer said they were still looking for more.

"We'll take whatever rainfall we can get from now on," he said. "But no more frosts will be the key."

Across the fence, his neighbours, Sam and Katie Macnamara, picked up 13.5mm on Sunday, on top of 8mm the previous week.

They said their crops had been living from "hand to mouth" in terms of moisture and more was needed if they hoped to reach average yield potential.

"We were very lucky that at the end of June we had a good rain, and we had good subsoil moisture from summer, but we have run out of moisture reserves," Sam said.

"The wheat and barley are looking OK but our oaten hay is certainly starting to show the effects. There is some going into head and some haying off, so it is imperative we get more.

"There is a long way to go before the end of the season … with more rain going forward we could make average yields."

Like the Macnamaras, the Poultney family are now hoping for good spring conditions to finish off their crops.

Geoff said that remarkably over the last 12 years, every odd year - beginning in 2001 - had been a good season, while every even year had been below average.

"On average, on the odd years we've had 83mm more rain and our average yields have been 2.7 tonnes for cereals and 1.4 tonnes for canola," he said.

"On the even years the average yield has been 1.7 tonnes for cereals and 0.7 tonnes for canola.

"If the rain pattern continues like it has this year, I predict we'll get those yields that we've been averaging on the even years, depending on frost."

Either way, Geoff said he was positive about the rest of the season.

"It only takes one big rain - we're still in the game," he said.

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