Late rain raises hopes for many

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Weekend rains have boosted yield potentials for most of the State as farmers prepare for this year's harvest.

In the Geraldton zone, conditions are on track for a record harvest but along the South Coast farmers say more is needed to finish crops.

In the Esperance zone, particularly Salmon Gums where farmers recorded 10 to 15mm last week, it could be too little too late as growers face the prospect of not harvesting crops.

CBH grains operations manager Max Johnson said the weekend rain had improved the outlook with a 12 million tonne crop anticipated.

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"Last week, after the dry spell, we were anticipating somewhere in the low 11 million tonne mark, but the weekend rain has been encouraging," he said.

In the north, Greenough grower Andrew Royce recorded 11mm. He said it was a nice and gentle finish to the season and would help fill out later-sown crops.

"The season has turned a fair bit and there is still a large percentage of crop that is green that will benefit from any moisture we get," Andrew said.

"Anything that's turned isn't going to be affected at this stage."

Andrew started cutting hay last week and will start swathing canola this weekend.

At Nukarni, 25km north of Merredin, Matthew Smith recorded 11mm to 15mm across his farm and said that without a finishing rain, they would have lost a third of the yield potential.

"The early sown crops have full grain just about in the heads and the rain will help fill the other grains in the head out and give more grain weight," Matthew said.

"The later-sown crops will be able to finish now to really make it a crackerjack."

Matthew will start swathing canola towards the end of October.

Further south near Narrogin, Roger Ballard recorded 20mm of rain at the weekend.

The family grows export hay, oats and peas.

"Before the rain, the oats were dry and probably needed some moisture and the lupins needed another rain," Roger said.

The Ballards will start cutting hay in a week and they are on track for above average yields.

Along the coast, Bremer Bay grower John Iffla said crops desperately needed another 20mm of rain to finish.

"It's been a fairly dry year on the south coast. We had a dry August and September," John said.

"We might just have an average year if we get more rain."

John said the dry conditions would bring forward harvest and he would start swathing a few weeks earlier than usual.

From worst to best *

It's a far cry from 2006 when like many in the northern Wheatbelt the Warr family at Yuna had little to harvest. That year was the worst season John and Kristen Warr had experienced.

_This season, the tables have turned and they are looking at their best season ever - although costs are high because of two sprays for summer weeds, extra nitrogen and a fungicide due to disease pressure. "We couldn't have asked for a better season but it's not in the bin yet," Kristen said. _

_Their rain gauge has captured 250mm of summer rain and 270mm of winter rain - topped up on Sunday with a "perfect" 10 to 14mm. _

_The couple started swathing their Cobbler canola this week. It was sown on April 15. The first load is expected to be in the bin the first week in October. _

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