NE harvest in full swing

Jo Fulwood and Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Its all smiles across the north-eastern Wheatbelt, with harvest in full swing across the district.

Early harvested canola has delivered excellent yields with high oil content, and many farmers are looking at the first bumper season in many years.

But not all areas in the Kwinana Port Zone are enjoying an above-average result this year. According to CBH Kwinana zone assistant manager Allan Walker, in areas west of Kellerberrin - including Cunderdin, Quairading, Tammin and Dowerin - yields will be affected by the dry September finish and widespread frosts.

Mr Walker said all standard gauge sites up to Merredin were open, and barley and canola deliveries from the Merredin district were better yielding than expected.

"We've heard reports of barley going four tonnes a hectare in Bencubbin, and oil content from all the canola delivered to date has been excellent," he said.

Mr Walker said it was still too early to determine if heavy rain in the eastern Wheatbelt over the weekend would have any impact on crop quality throughout the region.

After several below-average seasons, this year's result could not have come soon enough for Latham farmer Wes Benton, who has taken off more than 1100ha of canola, with the crop yielding up to 1.8t/ha.

Mr Benton has predicted this will be one of the best years the district has experienced.

"2011 was a really good season, and I don't think we will beat that, but this is definitely one of our best years," he said.

Mr Benton, who farms with his father John and full-time worker Chad McKay, has been harvesting for more than two weeks.

He attributes his high yield results to an early start to seeding and the 160mm of summer rain received, which carried the crops through the season.

"We were sowing on April 10, and that was way too early for wheat so we just kept going with canola, which is why we have so much canola in this year," he said. "It was a brave move but it paid off."

The Bentons still have 4000ha of wheat and 300ha of barley to harvest, but they are hoping to pull up the header in the first week of December.

Maya farmers Phil and Robyn Nicolaou are also enjoying a bumper season, with canola yielding 1.8t/ha, compared with a long-term average of 1.2t/ha.

Mr Nicolaou, who is a strong proponent of genetically modified crop technology, believes his Hyola 404 canola has been one of the best performing gross margin crops on his north Maya farm for many years.

He said oil content had been excellent this year, with one load topping 50.5 per cent.

Mr Nicolaou moved into the area in 2010, after farming at Perenjori and a five-year break living in the city. But he said the lure of farming was too great, and he went on the hunt for a reliable area.

"I've always wanted to come back into a good area, and I've found it here in Maya," he said.

Mr Nicolaou also attributed this year's result to good early moisture and April seeding opportunities.

"The canola went in on April 10, and it went into moisture," he said.

"This is definitely up there with one of the better years we've had here."

Meanwhile, Quairading farmer Hayden Richards has started to harvest his family's wheat, barley, canola, lupins and oats.

Mr Richards said it was an earlier than usual start, even though they had planted most of their 3800ha at the end of April.

"The only thing that goes in early is lupins and canola. We hold off on wheat because of frost," he said.

"Sowing too early will sacrifice your weed control."

Mr Richards said he was a bit apprehensive about this year's crop because of low winter rainfall.

"We had only 250mm of rain up to the end of September," he said.

"For September, we only had 20mm of rain."

Mr Richards said frost had caused some concern. "We're hoping it hasn't been the worst we've had, so I'd say there will be some screenings this year," he said.

Mr Richards said the past two seasons had been exceptional.

"Last year, we did 2.2t/ha and 3t/ha the year before that," he said.

"We will be under those yields this year."

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