North in box seat for a record year

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Steady rain has put the northern Wheatbelt on track for a bumper harvest.

“This year is looking like it is going to be a record year and if everything continues to go well, we could get more than that, ” CBH Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray said.

The record stands at almost 2.6 million tonnes of grain delivered in the port zone in 2003–2004, a total nearly matched in 2008–2009 when harvest fell short by just 3300 tonnes.

Mr Gray said it looked like more hectares were planted across the region this year, but only 50 per cent of growers had handed in their grower estimate forms.

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“It is vital that we get all our grower estimate forms in, so we can plan for harvest, ” he said

Last season just 1.49 million tonnes of grain were harvested in the Geraldton zone.

North of Mullewa, Cole Crawford, who manages Daisy Downs for John Nicoletti, is very optimistic about the prospects for the biggest crops sown on the Mullewa property in his five years there.

This season 6500 hectares of wheat, 1600ha of barley, 1500ha of lupins and 500ha of canola were sown at Daisy Downs, on the back of good summer rains.

The second biggest crop on Daisy Downs was in 2010 when Mr Crawford put in 9000ha.

Just 180mm of growing season rainfall last season resulted in below average yields, with wheat close to one tonne per hectare. This season is shaping up like 2008.

“We had 100mm of rain in December and about 330mm this year, ” Mr Crawford said.

Since the break of the season in May, about 200mm of rain has fallen on the property.

“Summer rain is the key out here. If we didn’t get much summer rain we would have pulled back, ” he said.

Summer rain prompted the inclusion of canola in the program for the first time.

Stubby and Tornado canola were sown in early May at 4kg/ha with 30 litres of flexi-N and 60kg of DAP/MAP mix.

Some of the canola germinated on the summer rain.

In hindsight, Mr Crawford said he might have sown the crop a bit shallower and used a higher seeding rate.

“We mainly put it in to clean the paddocks up and because we got so much summer rain, ” he said.

The State’s biggest grain grown, Mr Nicoletti, who put in 83,000ha in Esperance, Southern Cross, Westonia, Moorine Rock, Bullfinch, Cunderdin and Mullewa, visited Daisy Downs in mid-July and is pleased with the progress.

“At the moment, Mullewa is the shining star, ” he said.

“The crops are the best I’ve seen them — they look equally as good as 2008 when we averaged two tones per hectare.

“With 100mm of summer rain and another 200mm of growing season rain, it is not going to take much to get a decent crop.”

Spur-throated locusts presented a threat in the early part of the season, but the later germination of his canola meant it avoided locust damage.

The paddock boundaries were also sprayed with Regent, to target the locusts.

Mr Crawford said locusts no longer posed a threat to the crops, but were still around in the 3000ha of paddocks left out.

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