Mingenew casts eye on clouds

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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The traditionally reliable region of Mingenew and souther parts of the Mid West are experiencing one of their driest seasons on record.

Agrarian consultant Craig Topham said an area encompassing Mingenew, South Mingenew, Three Springs, West Arrino and down to Carnamah were particularly dry, and crops had lost significant potential.

Although welcome rains had started to arrive earlier this week, farmers in these areas were setting themselves up for a disappointing harvest.

"The rain forecast over recent days will help for sure, but these guys have already lost too much to really get back on track," Mr Topham said.

"Every area gets a tough season now and then, and this area is definitely experiencing that now.

"With a soft finish they could recoup some ground, but they will never recoup it all at this late stage."

Arrino farmer Tony Harding said he was enduring his driest season in 25 years of farming in the area.

After a small amount of rain this week, delivering just 7mm to Tuesday afternoon, he said he had only just passed the 100mm mark for the full year.

Mr Harding, who farms with wife Fleur and parents Cliff and Kay, said it was inevitable yields this harvest would be well below average.

"If the rain picks up from here and we get a soft finish to the season, we may still be able to measure our yields in tonnes," he said.

"Even with a good spring it will be a lean harvest - maybe 1.5 tonnes per hectare for wheat, whereas we usually average 2.5 to three tonnes per hectare.

"But if the dry conditions remain, then we will likely be measuring yields in kilograms."

Crops were at various stages, with one paddock of wheat starting to run up, while others remained dormant, according to the soil type.

Mr Harding said lupins were looking reasonable and canola was not yet flowering, which he said was a blessing.

Ben McTaggart, who farms with wife Hellene, brother Jamie and his fiancee Carine, and parents Rob and Sally, said they were fortunate to be on the north-eastern side of Mingenew, which had received more rainfall than areas south and west.

He said the southern end of their farm had received about 140mm for the year, of which 95mm has fallen during the growing season.

The northern end of the farm also received 95mm during the growing season, but generous summer rains pushed the total to 230mm for the year.

On Tuesday evening, the family was expecting more rain, which Mr McTaggart said would provide a welcome boost for thirsty crops.

"Our main issue is that our crops are well behind where they should be for late July," he said. "Some crops sown mid to late May didn't germinate until after we had an inch and a half at the end of June, so they are a month behind.

"This means we will need September to be kind in terms of rainfall and mild temperatures as the crops will still be growing."

Mr McTaggart said the best they could hope for was average yields, and even that would depend on a better than average finish to the season.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the central Wheatbelt, rain had started to arrive on Tuesday with up to 20mm received in areas including Cunderdin and Toodyay and 26mm in Meckering at the time of going to press on Tuesday afternoon. More much-needed rain was forecast for later this week.

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