A wetter and better start to the season than usual prompted an early Easter start to seeding for York farmer Erin Emin.
The third generation farmer was one of a number of growers across WA who jumped into their seeders earlier than usual to take advantage of subsoil moisture levels unseen in recent years.
And his nephew Riley, 17, helped make it happen, spending his school holiday break in the driver’s seat.
With about 180mm for the year so far — including the remnants of cyclone Seroja’s weather system — they began sowing about two weeks earlier than usual.
Mr Emin said the early start was something they had only done “once or twice” before.
“It’s quite a bit earlier but it’s a good opportunity with the moisture,” he said. “We had 10-15mm from the cyclone and were fortunate that no wind came through. It’s given us great subsoil moisture.”
Mr Emin runs a mixed farming operation with his brother Adrian and father Jim, cropping canola, wheat, barley, hay and lupins and running 6500 Merino ewes on 5500ha in the York region.
His grandfather originally migrated from Albania in the 60s and established a market garden in the area, before the family moved to sheep and cropping.
He said while rainfall varied across their properties, the dumping they got during February’s storm — which flooded Northam and saw triple digits tipped in rain gauges in the surrounding areas — had injected a lot of moisture into the soil at the start of the year.
“That was a lot of rain in 24 hours,” he said.
And while cyclone Seroja did not bring a similar figure as it moved inland, he said it had come following a hot and dry three weeks, freshening up pastures for the sheep.
Mr Emin is one of many growers altering their programs off the back of high canola prices and uncertainty around export hay markets to China.
“We’ll reduce the hay planting a bit and the barley will be slightly reduced, but we’ll move more canola into the program as it’s a good opportunity with the price,” he said.
An anticipated 15 per cent increase in canola across WA could see a return to historically big plantings of more than 1.4 million ha, according to Grain Industry of WA predictions.
Mr Emin hoped the rain would continue in the weeks and months ahead. “We’d just like some consistent rains throughout the season and some good follow up rain in the next couple of weeks.”