Good drink eases crop loss fears

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Rain finally arrived this week for brothers Stephen and Ashley Lord - not a moment too soon.

Between 10 and 16mm had fallen in their rain gauges by Tuesday morning and showers were continuing throughout the day.

The brothers, who farm between Goomalling and Konnongorring, said that after a dry July stretched into a dry August, their crops were looking a little worse for wear.

"Late last week, after the Dowerin field days, a lot of the crops on the heavier country were going backwards," Stephen said. "Friday would have taken a bit of yield potential out.

"I don't think this rain will replace everything that was lost but it will definitely stop everything going backwards."

Stephen said that in general the wheat looked OK, but their canola was patchy.

"We had opening rains of between 6 and 20mm in May and the canola that received 6mm then is trying now but it doesn't look too flash," he said.

"We've got quite a bit of Gem canola in and that has fared better but that being said, that's where the better rains were and the more forgiving soil. We'll harvest the whole canola program and if we can get an OK finish then the poorer canola can go 500 to 750kg.

"We would normally swath the whole lot but this year we might direct head about half, which is the poorer stuff."

While there is little doubt it's been a challenging season, Stephen said he was optimistic about the rest of the year.

"We'll probably end up with just below average (yields) and we're hoping for an average season if September is kind to us," he said.

Across the State many areas picked up some much needed rain in the past week. Wongan Hills recorded 21.4mm until Tuesday morning, Burracoppin up to 6mm, Hyden 4.9mm and Arthur River 34mm.

Further north, Mingenew received 16.8mm, Ballidu 8.6mm and Three Springs picked up 15mm by lunch time Tuesday.

Some areas had virtually missed out. Salmon Gums picked up just 0.2mm over the last week, Mt Walker 1.8mm and Merredin 2.6mm.

High winds brought little rain for Nokaning farmer Matthew Smith, who received just 1.5mm on his property near Merredin by Tuesday morning.

He said crops on his shallow gravel and heavy clay soils were running out of moisture and potential yield was being lost every day without rain.

"Some parts look OK but with no more decent rain there will be a lot of paddocks we might not harvest," Matthew said.

Decent rain in the next fortnight would be the key to maintaining yield.

In Mingenew, the Broad family will also be looking to the skies for further falls during spring to boost grain quality.

Brett Broad said they received 14mm on their 4050-hectare property on Monday night and Tuesday morning, which would be a massive boon for their crops after a dry spell that had lasted several weeks.

"The crops were hanging on well and they will definitely appreciate a drink," he said. "The wheat has been in head for a while so this week's rain will give it a quality boost and canola quality will also get a lift."

Brett said this week's rain had been patchy across the district. Farmers further north had reported falls of only 4 to 5mm while those towards Walkaway received up to 25mm.

"The good thing is the rain has been pretty steady and the crazy strong wind hasn't caused too many problems," he said.

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