Rain takes shine off bumper harvest

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

It's been a good season at the Hickeys' Corrigin farm but that won't change Des and wife Sue's decision to take a conservative approach to cropping this year.

The couple, who farm with their sons Luke and Michael, have above-average yields across most of the program this season but the shine has been taken off a bumper harvest by rain.

The Hickeys got away to a late start - putting in 2700 hectares of wheat, the same for barley, 700ha of canola and 500ha of lupins.

A wet August and September boosted crops but unfortunately the rain clouds stuck around, dumping 45mm in October, 23mm in November and 44mm in December.

"That put a lot of pressure on crops to finish off," Des said. "The late rain did the later crops a lot of good but it didn't do much for the earlier ones.

"Certain areas of the property for November had 120 to 130mm and quite a bit more in December. We've probably got ideal seeding conditions at the moment."

But as Des wryly remarked, it was probably too early to start sowing the coming season's crops.

Instead, harvest is slowly continuing. The family finished their barley on New Year's Eve before moving on wheat and with fine weather should be finished harvest in two weeks.

"It has been at the stage where we've been getting headers bogged and on particular areas of the farm we were getting bogged daily," Des said.

"At one stage we had both headers bogged."

So far their Buloke barley has held its quality reasonably well with the odd load making Malt 1 or 2.

"It's nice to see some yield coming through on the yield monitor, not like the zeros we had last year," Des said.

"When you go from the driest year on record to how it's worked out, it's a long way ahead of our worst year on record."

Nevertheless, Des said their strategy would not change much in the coming season and they would simply be taking it month by month.

"We'll see what summer rains we'll have and we'll make decisions as that unfolds," he said.

"As it stands, we have a lot of moisture in the soil, so it depends what happens in that April-May period.

"If it stays wet right through into April, there's going to be some very good early sowing opportunities, especially for canola.

"We won't be changing too much … a lot of guys are still getting over 2010 and that's taken its toll pretty hard throughout the WA grain industry. It has affected the decision making of quite a few.

"I'd say most are going to try to minimise risk as much as they can and keep to simple programs.

"The feeling is, just get this harvest and this season finished and then look at next year quietly.

"If we can get this one done and out of the way, it will be a nice feeling."

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails