Spirits lift as skies open

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

A flood in February and rain this week has boosted Nungarin farmer Andrew Coumbe’s confidence about the season ahead.

Since January, more than 300mm of rain has fallen on his property and provided excellent soil moisture to start seeding.

But three months on, Andrew — who farms with his father Gary — had been looking to the sky and hoping for more rain before the moisture disappeared.

The third generation farmer started seeding two weeks ago despite no sign of a follow-up front.

This week, his prayers were answered with 15mm of rain received in the gauge to midday on Tuesday.

The recent dismal rain forecasts had led the Coumbes to a decision to drop canola plantings this year.

But now the family has opted to put in about 350 hectares of the oilseed.

Up to this week, Andrew had sown 1000ha of wheat.

He said he wouldn’t be dropping any wheat out of the program now that the property had received more rain.

“We don’t need a great deal of rain to get us away,” he said.

After summer rains, Andrew had to spray his paddocks for weeds and on 20 per cent of the farm, had to pass over the same paddocks twice.

“We wouldn’t have done any spraying if we hadn’t had those summer rains,” he said.

The unusually high summer rainfall caused the Coumbes to change their cropping approach for this year.

“We were going to leave out some paddocks for pasture, but decided to crop them instead to make use of the moisture,” Andrew said.

Wheat makes up almost the entire program for the family.

“If we didn’t put our canola in, wheat would be 90 per cent of the rotation,” Andrew said.

He tried Mace wheat for the first time last year.

“We will be using this variety as a Wyalkatchem replacement this season,” he said.

Andrew said his fertiliser regime would remain the same as last year despite different rainfall patterns.

“Nitrogen levels are a lot higher than what we expected because of the summer rain causing mineralisation,” he said. “But keeping the fertiliser the same reflects a mix of having more nitrogen fixation and having less cash after coming off a bad year last year.”

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