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Season back on track for Dowerin

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Camera IconSeason back on track for Dowerin Credit: Countryman

It's been a dramatic turnaround in fortunes since the dry June period for Dowerin farmers Jason and Felicity Sewell.

While it may not end up as a bumper year, recent rains have put the season back on track, and with good spring rains, Mr Sewell believes the crops could end up being reasonable.

"Its certainly looking a lot better than what it was, but we are right on the edge of an area that is still in terrible pain," he said.

"In June we lost some yield potential, but it's been a big turnaround."

Mr Sewell said even though his farm had received more than 110mm during the January to March period, there was very little sub soil moisture left.

"In my case there is about a tonne range in the yield we could end up with, obviously dependant on spring rain," he said.

Mr Sewell said his area had received 126mm for the growing season so far, against a long-term average of 290mm for April to October.

"We just didn't get enough rain at seeding time," he said.

The business crops 4000 hectares, of which 70 per cent is wheat and the remainder comprising canola, barley, oats, lupins and peas.

The Sewells also run 1900 sheep.

Mr Sewell said moisture retention and frost management were two of the biggest challenges for his business.

And with the frost window still open, the biggest hurdle in terms of profitability may still be ahead of the couple.

"Frost management and moisture management are the keys for us. Any moisture we can get and retain throughout the summer period is so valuable," Mr Sewell said.

"There are ways to manage weeds; I use a number of strategies. But I can't control the amount of moisture we receive and I can't control frost.

"While I can try to mitigate the damage frost does, I can't stop it happening."

Mr Sewell said he had previously planted long season Calingiri wheat to avoid frost in September, but had seen no benefits.

"In fact, those paddocks ended up with some of the worst frost damage," he said.

"Each year it varies, one year we might lose 15 per cent of our yield, another year it might be just 7 per cent, but it's all cream on the cake that we are losing, it's all profit.

"Hopefully it's nice and wet for the field days. I hope everyone gets mud on their boots."

In June we lost some yield potential, but it's been a big turn around. Jason Sewell

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