April showers set up seeding

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Farmers throughout the State are beaming after generous, widespread rain continued last week.

In many areas, the rainfall followed a wet March, which has further bolstered confidence and prompted some farmers to start their seeding programs early.

Wagin farmer and Shire president Phillip Blight said he was heartened to hear that most areas of the State - particularly those that had endured particularly dry conditions in recent years - had fared well with opening rains.

Mr Blight's property, which he farms with wife Taryn and son Allan, received about 34mm in the past week, after 20mm fell in mid-March.

"It's beautiful timing, and we're off to a good start," he said.

He is aiming to start seeding the day after Anzac Day, which will represent normal timing for his property.

In total, the Blights will crop about 850ha this year. They plan to increase oat and barley plantings and will not sow any canola.

"We have a lot of sheep and will use these within our rotation, rather than canola. Sheep prices are more stable," Mr Blight said.

The Blights will plant Bannister oats and LaTrobe barley.

The smaller wheat crop will be mostly Mace wheat and they will also plant some Jenabillup lupins.

At Williams, Grant and Gemma Haddrick are also on track to start planting next week.

The farmers, who also run the Toorackie Poll Merino stud with Grant's parents Dennis and Margaret and his brother Brendan and wife Sianne, plan to seed canola, oats and barley.

Mr Haddrick said he would plant Stingray and Bonito canola, Bass barley, Bannister oats and Mace wheat.

His seeding will start at the usual time, after 30mm of rain which fell last week, in addition to 32mm in March. Although Williams has not been as wet as other areas in the State, the Haddricks are confident.

"We've had a good start, the moisture is very good. Hopefully the remainder of the season goes just as well," Mr Haddrick said.

In particular, the Haddricks are impressed with the state of their pastures after the recent rains.

"The pastures are looking fantastic, we had been a bit worried about the paddocks drying out but the rain has given them a definite boost and the clover is looking fantastic," Mr Haddrick said.

Kondinin farmers Gary and Janet Repacholi's property has received about 110mm since late February, which Mr Repacholi said was probably among the highest rainfall received in his area.

"We feel very lucky. It's been a beautiful start, full stop," he said.

"We have a long way to go, of course, this season, but if it continues as positively as it started, then we are in for a very strong year."

Mr Repacholi said the soil profile was so full of moisture that even if rainfall tailed off, the crops would be able to withstand a dry spell.

He said there were some farmers in the Kondinin area already sowing clover, while some had started to seed canola.

Although Mr Repacholi will probably start seeding next week, about a week earlier than the traditional Anzac Day start, he said he felt there was no need to rush in sooner.

Instead, the family prefers to use the time to fine tune their program to best take advantage of the abundant soil moisture. This year, the Repacholis' total cropping program will be about 2800ha, the bulk being Mace and Harper wheat.

They will also plant barley, oats, canola and lupins.

Meanwhile, generous rains have enabled farmers at Kellerberrin to start early.

Jason Syred, who farms north of Kellerberrin, started about 10 to 12 days earlier than usual last Monday, sowing Bonito canola.

Mr Syred and wife Ebony's property had 97mm of rain fall in March, and 16mm this month so far.

The pair will crop 3500ha on their property this season.

Mr Syred said while he was taking advantage of the moisture now, depending on rain over the next week, he may pull up the tractor and wait until more comes, resuming his plantings closer to the usual start time.

"The rain has been great at getting the weeds up and enabled us to do a good knock-down," he said.

"It's a dream start. We have a full profile of moisture and it won't take much to keep it wet - just 10mm here and there should do the trick."

Mr Syred said their cropping program would consist of 700ha of Bonito and Stringray canola, 200ha of Gunyidi lupins, 250ha of Scope barley, and the remainder Magenta and Mace wheat.

Ryan and Kerry Forsyth, also of north Kellerberrin, took advantage of more than 100mm of rain since the start of March.

The pair had already planted 350ha of Stingray canola by last Tuesday, more than a third of their planned 950ha canola program.

They have been kept extra busy with their spraying program after all the wet weather.

Mr Forsyth said while he had made an early start, he might also stop for a few days to allow for more weed germination.

The Forsyths also plan to plant 4000ha of wheat, mostly Magenta and Mace, 600ha of Hindmarsh barley and 200ha of Gunyidi lupins.

Rain has also been particularly generous and welcome in drier areas of the eastern and northern grain areas.

Gabbin farmer Mark Fitzpatrick received 95mm since the start of March on his home farm, which will enable him to start seeding six days earlier than usual.

His other properties, around Bencubbin, received between 70mm and 130mm.

_He normally starts his seeding program on Anzac Day, but this year he will begin sowing wheat on April 20. _

Mr Fitzpatrick, who farms with wife Michelle, will this year plant a total of 1800ha of the Calingiri and Mace varieties of wheat, and 500ha of Hindmarsh barley across several of his properties based around Bencubbin.

He said he would graze the early-sown wheat at the three-leaf stage to delay flowering and reduce the crop's susceptibility to frost.

"Sowing the crop early means that we will make good use of the available moisture," he said.

"This follows early germination of winter weeds, and we can sow with confidence knowing we have had a good knock-down."

Mr Fitzpatrick said this year was not his wettest start - in 1999 he had 150mm fall on March 22.

"However, the way the rain has fallen this year, and timing, has meant we are off to a very good start this season," he said.

Another benefit of the generous rain is the abundance of early pasture germination, meaning he has not had to feed sheep at this time of year. "I have a shed full of hay that I haven't had to use," he said.

But Mr Fitzpatrick is wary about being too optimistic, given last year's season was also looking good but crops fell over after a record dry August with only 8mm of rain.

Meanwhile, further up north, where seeding in the State traditionally starts first, West Binnu farmer Kyle Carson is out dry seeding, having had 120mm of summer rain in the gauge.

Describing his start to the 2015 growing season as chaotic but seamless, Mr Carson seeded 80 hectares of Izmir sub-clover and 300 hectares of Margarita serradella in late March, before starting his canola seeding program on April 6.

"Spraying has been pretty hectic, we've just finished our knockdowns for our canola, we've put in 650 hectares so far, the first 100 hectares received 20mm of rain on it overnight and has since been deep ripped," he said.

"We put 500 hectares of hybrid 404 canola across a lease property, deep ripping it as well and we are now back into 43Y23 canola which we will also deep rip."

Rain forecasts for early next week are of no consequence to Mr Carson's program at this point.

"There is a big low coming in, then it pushes north again, so who knows when we will get our next rainfall event now? Things are wet enough," he said.

Mr Carson says he expects wheat to be sown at the start of May.

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