Esperance right as rain

Dorothy HendersonCountryman

While farmers are always reluctant to give early predictions regarding the outcome of a season, many of those in the Esperance region are saying this one is shaping up to be the best they have seen for a long time, in terms of rainfall.

Widespread rains last weekend have topped up amounts tipped from gauges to date, and some seeders have been parked up during the past few days while growers wait for the ground to dry out before resuming their planned seeding programs.

At Salmon Gums, Rory Graham said the 21mm of rain recorded during the first few days of May brought the total received this season to 140mm.

With canola going in dry around Anzac Day and one paddock of wheat done before heavy rains in April, he is happy with the way seeding is going so far —saying that dry seeding seems to work well for a canola and that this year’s seeding was close to half way through.

“We have 8000ha going in this year, with 4000ha of wheat, 600ha of canola and the rest, barley, with a few peas going in as well.”

Mr Graham said the area going in to peas was less than it had been in the past, with economics and market return dictating a mix which excluded legumes despite the fact they were good for the ground and crop rotations.

At Howick, east of Esperance, Andrew Fowler and his family are pleased with the way the season has started.

“We received about 20mm over the weekend; so far we have had 198mm this year,” he said.

Mr Fowler said this was shaping up to be the best season he could remember.

“We have had good early rains, and they have been spread, so that we have had hardly a puddle on the place,” he said.

The Fowlers started chipping away at seeding on April 5, though the program got underway in earnest around April 21.

“We only have a week to go.”

With 45 per cent canola, 10 per cent barley and 45 per cent wheat going in, the Fowlers will be looking to continue their practice of maximising production by grazing the canola with sheep until early July, and have further maximised their stocking rate by planting 1500ha of pasture before starting the cropping program.

“We planted serradella and tetraploid ryegrass, chosen because it is such good feed,” Mr Fowler said.

He said the resulting high-performance plantings were fertilised, grazed to finish lambs and steers and also cut for silage.

At Dalyup, west of Esperance, Dave Marshall added another optimistic voice to those agreeing that the season so far looked promising, saying the combination of good summer rains, followed by an early break, meant that seeding had started well.

He said 32mm had fallen on the family’s coastal properties over the weekend.

“We received 37mm on one of the properties we are running at Cascade, and the other two received 32mm each,” he said.

The Marshalls have a program that includes the Cascade farms, with canola, wheat and barley continuing to be the favoured mix for all of the farms as it has proved to be the most profitable in the past.

“We are putting in 18,000ha of canola and around 3000 of cereal,” Mr Marsall said.

He said seeding was about two thirds of the way through, with only eight or nine days left to go.

“We will let it dry out for a couple of days before rolling again,” he said.

Mr Marshall said soil conditions now were similar to those normally experienced in July — a consequence of the good summer rains, which saw 180mm fall on the family’s Griffith Road properties.

He said the coastal land was prone to waterlogging if not managed carefully, and the family had invested thought and time into water management, including drainage, to minimise that risk.

“We still have some wet paddocks, but they are drier than they would have been,” he said.

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