Soaking prompts early seeding start

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerCountryman

Seeding has started in some parts of the Mid West as farmers capitalise on the generous Easter rains.

Marchagee farmer Michael O’Callaghan started sowing GM canola on Tuesday — marking his earliest ever start to his cropping program.

Mr O’Callaghan, who farms with wife Julia and parents Molly and Bevan, said the farm had received between 90 and 100mm in the 10 days leading up to Easter Sunday.

“This is our earliest ever seeding — it’s unheard of to start in March. Our next earliest start was last year and that was April 10,” he said.

“But there is plenty of sub-soil moisture and no significant rain forecast over the next 10 days and that could easily become 20 days at this time of year.

“It would be a sin to have this moisture down below and not to take advantage of it at this time of year.

“We were busy deep ripping after rain on March 18, and still spreading lime when more rain came last Friday and Saturday. Therefore, seeding became a real option.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he was aware there is significant risk from seeding at this time of year.

“There will almost certainly be more hot weather and a high chance of long dry periods. What will this cause a plant to do we don’t know,” he said.

The outcome of the early seeding will be influenced by temperature in coming weeks, but Mr O’Callaghan said all advice received was that there was enough moisture in the soil to keep lupins or canola going until the average break of the season.

“We started pre-spraying the canola on Sunday already having a weed germination. A further advantage of GM canola was that it is easier to control any further emergence in the crop,” he said.

The O’Callaghans will this year crop about 7400ha including 1500ha of GM canola, 1100ha of Scope barley, 1000ha of lupins, 50ha of oats and 100ha of cereal rye, 3650ha of wheat.

Mr O’Callaghan said he expected to plant about 75 per cent of the GM canola program over the next week or so and will then reassess next steps according to temperature.

He said one of his neighbours started seeding on Sunday, and he expected about half of the farmers in the Coorow area would start within the next week.

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