Ready to roll

Lauren Celenza and Claire TyrrellCountryman

On the eve of seeding, WA growers have their hopes and futures pinned on 2011 being a good season.

Prices are right and soil moisture profiles in the north eastern Wheatbelt have growers ready to roll.

Cloudbursts this week delivered 50mm at Walkaway and about 35mm at Yandanooka. At the other end of the agricultural region, Esperance growers recorded 12mm, while Lake Grace growers had 10mm.

However, falls of up to 5mm in the central and eastern Wheatbelt have done little for the parched landscape and the latest outlook from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) was not promising.

Wyalkatchem farmer Marcus Reilly recorded 1mm on Sunday night.

“I was hoping for more so I could start putting in some canola, but now we will hold off until after Anzac Day,” he said.

“We had some summer rain, but we need a good rain soon to get the season going.”

However, DAFWA director David Bowran has urged grain growers not to jump in their seeders too quickly, because the three-month outlook was for below-average rainfall.

“Short-term forecasts indicate drier conditions during April, with below-average rainfall likely over southern WA during May and June,” Dr Bowran said.

“There is some stored soil moisture in areas of the northern and eastern agricultural areas and some producers will commence seeding lupins in mid-April, however, the central and southern areas are generally very dry.”

Dr Bowran said while it was common for farmers to dry seed some of their cropping program, he encouraged them to look at how the season was likely to unfold.

“Farmers are encouraged to use all tools available to them to make strategic decisions  about this year’s crop and not over commit early in the season,” he said.

The WA Bureau of Meteorology is hedging its bets, saying the next three months has an equal chance of below or above-average rainfall.

Bureau meteorologist Yan Hui Blockley said the La Nina patterns were likely to neutralise.

“La Nina will break up and conditions will become neutral, so 2011 will be between La Nina and El Nino,” she said.

Meanwhile, Borden farmer Doug Wright has had 11mm of rain over the past week.

“It wasn’t enough but at least it’s something,” he said.

“We will start seeding canola next week regardless of whether we get more rain.”

At Mingenew, Alex Pearse received up to 18mm on Sunday. He will start seeding towards the end of the month.

“We’ll probably wait until after Anzac Day to start,” he said.

Mullewa farmer Daniel Critch also missed out on weekend rains, but planned to start seeding this week.

“Farmers with good subsoil moisture will have enough confidence to dry sow canola and lupins,” he said.

The rains, although welcome, will not help South West fruit growers to produce their next crop.

Donnybrook stone fruit grower Ben Darbyshire recorded 19mm over the weekend, but said his dams “didn’t feel a thing”.

“It’s better than not having it, but if we had water in our dams we would be watering now and we can’t,” he said.

Mr Darbyshire said next season’s fruit yields would suffer as a result of irregular watering.

Manjimup fruit grower Dianne Fry recorded 15mm of rain from Friday to Monday.

“It saved us a watering, but that is it,” she said.

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