Swathers swing into action

Trin SucklingCountryman

Canola swathing is well underway in Northampton and surrounding districts with farmers expecting to make their first deliveries in early October.

East Ogilvie farmer Mark Johnson began swathing his Cobbler variety last Sunday and will finish his red country this week.

"We still have 150 hectares of Tornado across our sand which we won't be swathing for another couple of weeks," he said.

Mr Johnson is hoping a wetter than average year will result in higher yields.

"It looks like we could get 1.2 to 1.5 tonnes to the hectare at the moment, but it is hard to know," he said. "I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks."

Higher rainfall has also led to an increase in fungal disease sclerotinia in canola crops across the district.

Following previous experiences with sclerotinia on his Chilimony property, Mr Johnson crop dusted for the disease early.

"There are still a few patches of it, but nothing like what we would have seen if we hadn't sprayed," he said.

West Ogilvie farmer Des Stanich said sclerotinia was present in about 10 per cent of his canola with slightly more on his Alma property, Hilly Fields.

"It is hard to pick how much it affects yields, in the end we decided not to spray due to the availability, expense and the relative unknown benefits," he said.

Agronomist Peter Eliott-Lockhart, of Planfarm, said the effect of sclerotinia had been widespread.

"Traditionally the problem is not experienced on sandplain soil types," he said. "This year cases have been easily found in sandy soils, although there is not as much damage in comparison to canola crops on redder loams.

"In other parts of the world, yield loss is generally about 50 per cent of the total number of stems infected.

"Sclerotinia is primarily found in wet conditions during the flowering period and infections occur after 10 days of damp weather.

"These conditions are required for the infected petals to adhere to the stem and for the fungus to penetrate the stems.

"The petals are infected early when the mushrooms release ascospore showers at the start of flowering.

"We do not have a lot of information to base spraying decisions on in WA. Previous seasons have shown good results from spraying and we believe early spraying is going to be the most beneficial."

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