Weather may be harvest dampener

Trin Suckling and Claire TyrrellCountryman

Rain is hampering the start of harvest but not diluting the spirits of farmers in the northern Wheatbelt.

The stage was set early for a bumper year and minimal frost and disease have set the region up to smash the 2008-09 grain handling record of 2.6 million tonnes.

In the Northampton area, growers are delighted with yields of four to five tonnes a hectare for wheat and 1-1.8t/ha for canola being reported, although concerns over quality and a fall in prices have taken some of the gloss off.

Evan Reynolds at the start of this week had harvested 200 hectares of King Rock and Mace wheat varieties at Criddle's Bella property and he is impressed with the outcome.

"I've been at Avalon for five years and haven't seen anything like it, our manager Barry Marshall has been here for 25 years and hasn't seen these sorts of yields," Mr Reynolds said.

"The obvious concern is the weather - it would be disappointing to see quality issues result from the tropical influences we're experiencing at the moment."

Mr Evans said they would have to concentrate on stubble management for next year's seeding program.

East Binnu farmer Kyle Carson's harvest program is being delayed by the weather.

"At least the rain isn't coming through in huge amounts so far - the year has gone pretty smoothly, something was bound to pop up," he said.

"We're pretty happy with the way our canola is yielding at the moment, so we're really looking forward to getting into our wheat. With this rain around it will still be another few weeks yet."

At Greenough, Andrew Royce said the hay they began cutting in the third week of September had suffered badly from 60mm of rain since the start of October, including 4mm last week.

While he has managed to rake and bale it, Mr Royce said it was disappointing given this was one of their biggest hay producing years. He is also concerned about the potential for sprouted grain in the wheat if there is more rain.

Mr Royce this week picked up the last of his canola, which he said was not adversely affected by the rain.

Balla farmer Brad Burns started harvesting wheat last week but pulled up when it rained.

"We had 15mm at the start of October, 2mm on the weekend and 2mm on Monday," he said.

"This rain is not helpful at all. If it doesn't dry out in the next couple of days, it will be potentially damaging."

CBH Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray said about 90,000 tonnes of an estimated 3.2 million tonne haul for the 2011-12 season was in the bin on Tuesday.

The tonnage in the bin for the Geraldton zone included 45,000 tonnes of wheat, 12,000 tonnes of barley and 30,000 tonnes of canola.

Mr Gray shared grower concerns about quality, saying at the start of the week that the next few days would be trying for growers and the grain handler.

"Everyone has slowed down because of the weather and moisture will be an issue for the next couple of days," he said.

But in general, the season had been magnificent for the northern region.

"We've had great rainfalls with a mild finish, although it is still continuing it's still one of the best growing seasons we've seen for a fair while," he said.

CBH operations manager Max Johnson said that rain anywhere north of the Esperance and Albany zones could be detrimental to growers at this stage of the season.

"Most of the crops are still quite green in the Esperance and Albany zones, so rainfall would be a good thing there," he said.

"We've now received canola at Dalwallinu and we're expecting to receive grain in the northern part of the Kwinana zone this week.

"We are still feeling pretty bullish about harvest and are expecting a 12.5-13 million tonne crop."

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