Frosts make oats safe option

Kate PollardCountryman

Two years ago Boddington mixed farmer Simon Kelsall decided to focus his cropping program on growing milling oats.

It was an easy decision to make, especially because his property is in a frost-prone area.

"You can grow canola and barley and wheat here, which we have done, but we've come back to oats because it's safe and we get plenty of frosts here," Mr Kelsall said.

"Year in year out, oats seem to be the easiest one to grow - milling varieties in particular.

"But that's not to say I won't go back into growing cereals.

"If we start to crop more and have to go into rotational cropping then we will have to grow canola and barley."

Two weeks ago, Boddington recorded its lowest temperature for the year - minus 3.4C on May 24.

In the next two days, farmers also experienced the first frosts of the year with locals saying this was normal for this time of year.

For Mr Kelsall, the frosts came two days before pulling up after 16 days of seeding 640 hectares.

Originally he had planned to sow 750ha but after two weeks of no rain, he decided to wait and watch the weather.

With his early crops germinating well, after _Countryman _ visited last Thursday, 8mm of rain was recorded.

The rain has been a good sign for all growers and Mr Kelsall has already sold half of his projected harvest.

"We forward sold for cash before it was planted and on the day we sold, it was raining," he said.

To sow the oats, Mr Kelsall had help from his father, Richard, and two drivers.

They used a Ford Engineering 28ft 270 bar and bin pulled by a Ford Versatile tractor.

Oats were sown at a depth of 2cm at a rate of 70kg/ha with 90-100kg/ha of DAP Extra.

"With our sheep program, the oat stubbles are a good fit and offer better grazing value than canola," Mr Kelsall said.

He said they recorded 29mm of rain in April and 79mm in May.

Fast facts *

Who: Simon Kelsall, Broughton

Where: Boddington

What: 65 per cent sheep, 35 per cent crop

Rainfall: 650mm average

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