Grower fingers crossed for rain

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Farmers are again desperate for season-saving rain.

They are hopeful rain will arrive this weekend as forecast, once again just in the nick of time.

Calingiri farmer Aaron Edmonds said he was getting desperate, with sub- soil moisture virtually depleted.

"We are losing significant yield potential by the day," he said.

"There is rain forecast for this weekend and it's really critical that we get that."

Mr Edmonds' last rain event was just 10mm at the start of July, after receiving 35mm for each of May and June.

"We have had 40 per cent of our normal rainfall for the last 90 days," he said.

Mr Edmonds said cereals on heavier soil types had patchy emergence, and crops on weaker soils, and particularly canola, were struggling.

"There has been a lot of micronutrient deficiency evident in cereal crops," he said.

Adding further pressure is the forecast for sunny and windy conditions later this week.

"This is very stressful as the wind and sun will further dry out the crops," he said.

Agvivo agronomist Erin Cahill said cold conditions, combined with drying easterly winds in recent days, had added further pressure to thirsty crops around the Midlands and central Wheatbelt.

Mr Cahill said around Moora, Dandaragan and Badgingarra, crops were looking good and could be on track for an average or even above-average season, provided rain arrived soon.

For other areas, including Calingiri, Bolgart, Northam and York, farmers were still hopeful of a reasonable year, if forecasts eventuate.

However, east of Miling across to Pithara and down toward Piawaning and West of Wongan Hills, crops were suffering.

Mr Cahill said many of these areas had only received about 95mm for the whole year.

"For these farmers, unfortunately it would take a fair bit to make average from here," he said.

"It's not out of the question. It happened in 2008 for those guys so never say never. But it would take an amazing spring in order for their crops to make a comeback."

Mr Cahill said across the board, rain forecast for next week would be very welcome.

"It's exactly like it was three weeks ago when rains arrived. Crops were desperate but for many it arrived just in the nick of time," he said.

"A good rain will do wonders, much like it did three weeks ago. If we got that same quality of rain - 20mm to 50mm - things would be well back on track."

Between Goomalling and Wongan Hills, Peter Whitfield said although not yet critical, forecast rain this weekend would keep him on track for a good year.

"We have had good establishment so far but any rain would be very helpful to keep things going," he said.

"Crops have hung on so far, but things will start to fall away now if we don't get rain.

"Already the crops are starting to look a bit wilted by the afternoon, probably due to frosty and windy conditions, however they are tending to pick up again by the next morning."

Mr Whitfield said in early July his Konnongorring property received just 6mm and about 127mm for the year.

He attributed part of the reason for his crops' resilience to recent dry conditions was good early rains in May, where between 20mm and 50mm was received across his family's property.

However, sheep feed was under much pressure, and he was being forced to hand feed livestock.

Agrarian Management consultant Craig Topham said in the northern region, areas such as Binnu, Northampton, Yuna and Mullewa, were looking good. An area from Carnamah, south through Coorow to Marchagee, was also looking very good, because of some good falls back in June on top of good summer rains which provided sub soil moisture at the start of the season.

Mr Topham said these areas had received generous early rains and it was amazing to see how well some crops had done when sown early into subsoil moisture.

However, he said crops at Mingenew, Morawa, Three Springs, Perenjori and North Carnamah were looking poor.

"If rain arrives this weekend, it would help. But nonetheless, it looks like being well below average season down there," he said.

"And if they don't get rain, these farmers will be in a lot of trouble."

At Bonnie Rock, farmer Romina Nicoletti said she was also expecting rains this weekend to provide a much-needed boost to her crops.

She said temperatures of just 2 degrees had resulted in frosts in her area but these had no negative impact on her crops.

"None of our crops were at the flowering stage and although the cold weather had lowered soil temperatures, there is no negative impact on production," she said.

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