Rain and shine in Wheatbelt

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

The State's harvest crossed the 10 million-tonne mark last week - about 80 per cent complete - but many farmers once again had to stop progress at the weekend because of rain.

The Geraldton Zone is close to finishing harvest, with the majority of growers in the northern part of the zone having now wrapped up their programs.

In the Kwinana Zone, CBH zone manager Gavin Bignell expected most farmers would be finished by mid-December.

Among them, Bolgart farmers Steph and Barry Clarke expect to wrap up their harvest next week, after what has been a stop-start harvest because of rain.

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They received 1.5mm at the weekend - much less than other parts of the State - but it still stopped progress until last Tuesday.

"Despite having to stop on several occasions, we are on schedule and expect to finish by mid-December," Mrs Clarke said.

"Having four boys to help out has ensured there's been plenty of hands on deck to keep things going when weather permits; the eldest Jarrod driving the header all harvest and Tristan, who recently finished school, driving the chaser bin. The younger boys, Regan and Ben, also help out."

Mrs Clarke said they had moved on to harvesting their Magenta wheat on Monday and were pleased with yields.

"It has been an above-average year for us and we realise we are extremely fortunate compared to other parts of the State - even as close as 15km away there's been less rain," she said.

The Clarkes received 326mm during the growing season, and unlike many other parts of WA had "just enough" rain during the spring, receiving a total of 28mm across five different days during September.

Mrs Clarke said a 785ha GM canola crop had yielded an average of 1.9t/ha, averaging 44-48 per cent oil content.

Their 435ha Bass barley crop yielded an average 3.52t/ha and had gone all malt grade, while a 620ha noodle wheat crop of Calingiri had yielded an average 3.4t/ha.

Although early days in their 730ha Magenta wheat harvesting program, the Clarkes were averaging 3.4t/ha, which has so far been of good quality, preventing the need to grade.

For the drier southern Wheatbelt areas of the State, where the lack of stock water is a serious issue, heavy rains at the weekend were a mixed blessing.

According to Bureau of Meteorology data, Arthur River received 50mm, Williams North 35mm, Darkan 26mm, Narrogin 27mm and Wagin 38mm for the week ending Monday morning.

Darkan farmer and West Arthur Shire president Ray Harrington said this rain would have created some puddles in dams - which would buy farmers about two weeks in terms of stock water - but it was not a lasting solution to the lack of stock water in the area.

"These rains may have provided a foot or two of water, but the dams are so low and ground so dry that most of it will evaporate in any case," he said.

Mr Harrington said his Shire was in the process of applying to Rural Water (part of the WA Water Authority) for grants to supply further water points throughout the shire.

For areas that had received less than 25mm, the rain would have little negative impact on grain quality, Mr Harrington said.

However, further east at Lake Grace, BOM recorded 95mm of rain, which Mr Harrington said could cause staining and sprouting.

CBH general manager of operations David Capper said the harvest estimate for CBH had been revised down to 12.5 from 13 million tonnes because of wind, hail and fire across most of the State.

"Quality continues to be a frustration for growers and we appreciate their support and co-operation as we try to get the segregation mix right and help growers to maximise the value of the remaining crop," he said.

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