Easter rain joy for farmers

Brad Thompson and Jenne BrammerCountryman

Farmers across the Wheatbelt are celebrating an Easter downpour that has set them up for the best start to a growing season in more than a decade.

Many farmers will be busy spraying to kill weeds and conserve moisture over the next fortnight while others start seeding canola.

The heaviest falls were in the central and southern Wheatbelt with some farms getting more than 50mm.

Wyalkatchem had 117mm and Wongan Hills 108mm over two days.

Grass Valley farmer Glen O’Driscoll said he hoped the Easter soaking was followed by more heavy rain within the next three or four weeks.

He’s had 150mm this year, which in one recent year was almost all they got over 12 months.

“It can turn into a false break in this area but we are staying positive,” he said.

Konnongorring farmer Peter Whitfield received 58mm over Easter, bringing his total since January 1 to 135mm.

“This rain has been very handy and really boosts our hopes for a good year,” he said.

“We will be waiting for the next 10-12 days for a good germination of weeds then will spray those out, probably starting our seeding program between April 15 and 20.”

Paul Harley and Claire Chamberlain of Mt Sheridan received more than 111mm on their property over the Easter weekend, bringing the year-to-date total to more than 200mm.

“These have been good soaking rains, it will provide us with the chance for a good knock down,” Ms Chamberlain said.

“We already had a lot of sub soil moisture from the rains in January and February, and these latest rains have incorporated the lime and gypsum we had spread in February, leading us into a really positive start to the season.”

Mr Harley said he was likely to start sowing canola on April 15.

Had these rains not happened, he would still start sowing around this time but probably wheat instead of canola.

“This has set us up so well for the season; we just have to hope now for the late May and June rains to keep things going,” he said.

Looking back at records on the property, Ms Chamberlain said 1955 and 1968 both had the same rainfall at this time of year and those years finished with 540mm totals, boosting confidence for a promising year ahead.

Farm consultant David Sermon said seeding was already underway this week.

He had clients “all over the Wheatbelt” who were relatively happy and looking to start seeding canola.

“As soon as you have more than 100mm of summer/autumn rainfall you know you are looking at least at average to above average crops, ” he said.

WAFarmers president Tony York said his Tammin farm had 60mm as he counted down to the start of seeding in mid-April.

“For a lot of the Wheatbelt it has been a fantastic Easter,” Mr York said.

Mr York said growers had adopted many modern farming and weed management methods in the past decade but without having a truly favourable rainfall year across the Wheatbelt.

“We don’t know our full potential, ” he said.

“Some growers have had more than 150mm since January 1, so there is a lot of moisture there for the winter crops.”

After lower-than-average rainfall, WA produced a record harvest of 17 million tonnes in 2013-14 followed by big crops of 14.52mt in 2014-15 and 14.8mt in 2015-16.

Where the rain fell

Central West

New Norcia: 58mm

Barbeton East: 56mm

Lower West

Wattening: 101mm

Moondah Brook: 104mm

South West

Capel North: 90mm

Collie: 83mm

Southern Coastal

Hopetoun North: 101mm

Ravensthorpe: 121mm

Central Wheatbelt

Wyalkatchem: 117mm

Merredin: 65mm

Wongan Hills: 74mm

Hines Hill: 80mm

Belka: 84mm

Great Southern

Tambellup: 100mm

Katanning: 76mm

Newdegate: 62mm

Lake Grace: 47mm

Source: Bureau of Meteorology, seven day rainfall until 9am Tuesday

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