Quality up in early harvest

Jo Fulwood and Rueben HaleThe West Australian

The early start to harvest continues in WA, with Northampton farmers Daniel and Trish Gill busy in the paddocks last week.

In fact, Mr Gill said looking back at his records; harvest had started a week earlier each year for the last three years.

The Gills, who farm with Daniel's father Kevin, kicked off harvest on October 8 and Mr Gill estimated he was already halfway through his program of wheat, barley, oats and lupins.

"The growing season seems to be getting shorter and the spring is getting drier, so the message there is to get the crop in the ground as early as possible I guess," he said.

He said the early sown crops appeared to be better in quality and lower in screenings than the later sown crops.

"But yield wise they all appear to be yielding the same," he said.

Mr Gill said while the harvest was going smoothly, he didn't think it would be a bumper year for his business, given the dry September finish and the lower than average growing season rainfall.

"The yields are not as good as I was expecting, even the crops that looked really good just didn't finish off like they should have," he said.

The wheat and barley was yielding 2.8t/ha on average, in contrast to the budgeted average of 3t/ha.

"The farm has only received 300mm for the year, with the long term average being 450mm," Mr Gill said. "In fact, 100mm of that was summer rain, so we've really only had 200mm for the growing season, of which only 12.5mm fell in September."

Mr Gill said many farmers in the district, particularly those with canola, had also been going since early October.

"We've had a pretty good run so far, with good weather and low moisture," he said.

He said the only challenge had been blending high screening loads to ensure it made the Hard grade, since CBH did not have a AUH2 stack at the Northampton receival site.

According to Geraldton zone manager Duncan Gray, all of the receival sites in the northern end of the zone were now open and he anticipated the remaining sites in the south would be open by the end of next week. Mr Gray said 195,000 tonnes, predominantly of wheat and canola, had been delivered so far this season, which was 80,000 tonnes behind this time last year

"Quality-wise the canola has been really good with fantastic oil levels," he said.

"Wheat is generally good but we are just starting to see some signs of frost, with shrivelled grain and some screenings issues.

"Total tonnage for the zones is predicted at 2.4 million tonnes but at this early stage I would say we are not going to achieve that because of screening and frost issues."

Harvest has also kicked off across the Kwinana, Esperance and Albany port zones, with many Esperance farmers looking at an excellent season.

CBH Esperance zone manager Mick Daw said harvest had started well, and was on track to achieve the 2.7 to 2.9 million tonne predicted target.

But Mr Daw said hail damage in the Lakes district on Saturday night would take some of the shine off that total.

So far this harvest, CBH has received a total of 237,541 tonnes with the vast majority of that in the Geraldton zone.

Meanwhile, harvest is also starting early in the Central Wheatbelt, with some Tammin farmers rolling out their headers this week.

And at Kulin, farmer Brian Bowey said his family expected to finish harvesting their 4200ha crop before Christmas.

The family began harvesting at the end of October last year, but this year, with the sudden spell of hot, dry weather, the canola crop had the right moisture content already for harvesting.

"Our season had a really good start and it was shaping up to continue to be a really good season, like the rest of the State," he said.

"But without the rain in September, it's dropped away.

"We're still okay; we still should have an average season because we planted a large proportion of the crop in March."

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