Hit-and-miss rains for WA

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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_Patchy rains in the State over the weekend and on Monday proved a saviour for northern and eastern farmers, but failed to deliver for many in the Kwinana port zone. _

Planfarm consultant Nathaniel O'Hare said farmers from around Southern Cross down to Cunderdin and York were disappointed after receiving a small amount over the weekend to Tuesday morning, despite big falls of rain in many parts of South West WA.

According to Bureau of Meteorology figures, Southern Cross and Tammin received 5mm, and Goomalling and Narembeen 2mm.

He said these farmers around many Central Wheatbelt areas were lowering their expectations and were now anticipating a below-average season.

"Farmers are being realistic. You can't have just 2 1/2 good rainfall events to this point in the season and still expect an above-average outcome," he said.

However, Mr O'Hare said on the South Coast, around Jerramungup, crops were forging ahead and farmers were expecting above-average yields.

"Those farmers have benefited from coast showers in between the normal frontal rains," he said.

Further north, around Binnu and Mullewa, crops are also in good condition, benefiting from early rains which had built up sub-soil moisture.

BoM figures show Nabawa and Ogilvie each received more than 60mm while Northampton had 31mm. Mullewa received less at 8mm, although crops were still looking robust.

South around Williams, farmers received between 20mm and 30mm at the weekend.

"Dry conditions until now would have shaved some yield potential, but they are still on track for average returns," Mr O'Hare said.

For Cuballing farmers Roger and Simon Newman, 21mm received over the weekend was perfectly timed. Roger Newman said their 4200ha crop was looking dry, with only 8mm being received earlier in July.

"It's been a long time between drinks," he said. "We were losing yield potential and we really needed this latest rainfall."

The brothers consider themselves fortunate, given rainfall was patchy across the State.

Mr Newman said this latest downpour put them on track for an average to above-average year.

"This year has been unseasonally dry, but what rain we have had has been perfectly timed," he said.

"Being slightly drier is not a bad thing for us. Often July can get too wet in this area and we lose potential through waterlogging."

He said he had received almost 200mm for the growing season, substantially lower than the 300mm which had usually been received by this time of year.

Mr Newman said one of the biggest challenges caused by this year's dry conditions had been the patchy germination which led to difficulties in spraying.

"We have had two-leaf and five-leaf plants in the same paddock, so we've had to hold back our spraying," he said.

That said, Mr Newman resumed his spray program on Tuesday after the weekend rains.

This year the Newman brothers' plantings included 1400ha of Bannister, Williams and Wandering oats, plus some Carrolup oats for hay.

This marked a significant increase on oat plantings compared to previous years.

"The oat price is very attractive, at around $300 tonne. We were also attracted to the fact we could plant early and reduce our vulnerability to frosts," Mr Newman said.

Also planted is 600ha of barley, including Scope, Hindmarsh and Vlamingh, 1000ha of Calingiri and Mace wheat, and 1200ha of canola, including the Bonito, Stingray and a small amount of Roundup Ready varieties.

The Newmans, who also run 1500 breeding Merinos, were expecting a small amount of forecast rain late this week, which further boosted prospects for their season.

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