June rain raises family's hopes

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Grass Patch farmers Leon and Kellie Guest sometimes joke that their oldest son, three-year-old James, is yet to see a decent winter rain.

Nevertheless, with wellington boots and rain jacket ready to go, James knew exactly what to do when the Guests picked up 16mm this week.

The falls were met with much relief by Leon and Kellie - who farm with Leon's parents John and Marilyn, brother Vernon and sister-in-law Kath - after a dry start had seen just 18mm fall since the start of April.

That total is now 34mm for the growing season and 160mm for the year.

But despite having moisture at depth, things were drying out on top.

"We had finished seeding and we hadn't pulled up but we were wondering whether we should have towards the end," Leon said.

"The last 1000 hectares of our wheat, only half of it germinated."

With the rain that's already fallen and more predicted to be on its way, Leon said that germination would even out in a week or two.

But after a disappointing season last year, the dry start was starting to become a worry.

"We cut the fertiliser back this year because last season was such a poor one and we'd like to think there was a bit left in the ground," Leon said.

"We also used a new seeder bar on 12-inch spacings instead of 10 and put stiletto boots on the seeder, which spread the seed to make it a nine to 10-inch gap."

Leon said the rain was met with relief and optimism, but conceded it was still a long way before the grain was in the bin.

"We're hoping that moisture at depth will be the difference between this year and last year," he said.

"Last year we didn't have that moisture and this rain will help join up that 60mm we had in March with the cyclone (Lua)."

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