Farmers wait for the break

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

With no rain forecast in the immediate future for the State’s south, many farmers are in limbo.

Crops have started to emerge in the northern Wheatbelt after a reasonable break to the season, but in other parts of the State farmers have delayed seeding while they wait for rain.

Geraldton Planfarm agronomist Richard Quinlan said crops were emerging from Ajana to Carnamah, but with no rain forecast soon, many farmers were unsure of how they should proceed.

“They had a reasonable break and have managed to get some canola and wheat emerging, however, some areas are having trouble getting crops out of the ground,” Mr Quinlan said.

Northam ConsultAg consultant Ryan Pearce said canola would be dropped from many programs this week.

“About 50 per cent of the guys in the Central Wheatbelt who were planning to seed canola won’t do it now,” he said.

“The forecast isn’t looking great for the Central Wheatbelt. After this week, decisions will have to be made.”

Esperance Farmanco consultant John Richardson said rain had meant farmers in the western areas were able to get going with some confidence, but it had since been dry in the region.

“Other areas are dry seeding completely, with some having subsoil moisture and others none at all, but all have their fingers crossed,” he said.

“We would be lucky if a quarter of farmers in the Esperance region had started seeding.”

In Nungarin, however, growers are brimming with confidence.

After receiving three years’ worth of rainfall at the start of the year, Nungarin farmers have been blessed with adequate subsoil moisture, which has kick-started the 2011 season.

Fourth-generation farmer Kim Creagh said the farm’s dams were full and the soil was moist — all they needed was for the season to break.

Up to 300mm of rain has already fallen on the family’s farm this year, a contrast to the 2010 growing season when only 130mm of rain was recorded.

“At the moment, moisture levels are good,” Kim said.

“Another rain would join the moisture profile up nicely for the start of the season.

“We haven’t had that much subsoil moisture in the past, so knowing that it is there, we think we may benefit from it.”

Before the summer rains, Kim said the farm’s dams had been bone dry for some time.

The Creaghs did not supplementary feed their 7500 sheep, although summer spraying was needed to control weeds.

The family started seeding their 12,000 hectare program on April 22, and hope to finish by mid June.

“For the canola, we are spraying 1.5 litres per hectare of trifluralin and 300mL/ha of chlorpyrifos to control weeds and pests,” Kim said.

He said they were also seeding 100ha of lupins for sheep feed, were about to start seeding 300ha of Stirling barley and would finish with 8000ha of wheat.

The Creaghs use a range of wheat varieties, including Stiletto and Mace, but most of the program is Calingiri and Arino.

“We used to only grow noodle varieties Calingiri and Arino, but when the noodle market dropped, we decided to look at other varieties to spread the risk,” Kim said.

“We grow Stiletto mainly because of its weed control benefits. You can also put it in dry, which we have had to do for the past five years.”

Despite receiving good rain over summer, the Creaghs have not changed fertiliser rates.

“We already had our fertiliser on hand and our soil test results weren’t much different to what we thought, so our rates will stay virtually the same as last year,” Kim said.

“Even though the phosphorus levels are high, the nitrogen levels aren’t as high as we expected, so we will still go with the blanket rate we were going to do.

“We will go with 70–80kg/ha of Agras and we may come back with Flexi-N if the season permits.”

Their most recent rainfall was before Easter when 6mm fell on parts of the farm.

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