Rain boosts self-sown wheat

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Beacon farmers John Dunne and sons Andrew and David will move their seeding programs ahead by almost a week after rains dumped 100mm on their properties since the start of March.

Andrew said he rarely planted canola - considered a high-risk crop in his low rainfall area - but after the generous rains, he felt far more confident this year.

"Canola is typically a high- risk crop in this area, but this year we're seeing it as an opportunity crop due to the rain," he said.

He will plant 300ha of the triazine tolerant Sturt variety, starting imminently. His usual start is Anzac Day.

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After the canola planting, Andrew will move on to planting his Mace and Yitpi wheat crop.

In total, he expects to crop about 3250ha, which is larger than usual because his pastures were looking so good and would therefore be able to carry more sheep.

He said the abundant rain, combined with wind damage before harvest last year, had led to a very unusual circumstance of wheat self-sowing at a particularly thick rate across hundreds of hectares on his property.

_The self-sown wheat patch appeared to be about the eight-week stage. _

He said this had provided an abundance of sheep feed, and was now being grazed.

Other paddocks with self-sown wheat would be left as pastures for the winter.

This week, he was having the areas he plans to crop sprayed, ready for reseeding.

"The rains mean this year we can condense the amount of land used for pasture, which means I can allocate more land to cropping," he said.

Also different for Andrew this year, and prompted by the rains, is that he has ploughed a vast proportion of his cropping land, for the purposes of weed control, to help with turning in lime and for controlling the regrowth of bushes in some areas.

Meanwhile, brother David is finalising some shearing and also plans to bring his seeding forward to later this week.

David said he would start his program by seeding about 400ha of Mortlock oats.

He also plans to sow about 2000ha of wheat, mostly Mace and Calingiri, but will hold off until Anzac Day because planting too early could increase the crop's vulnerability to frost.

For the first time this year, he will plant a small amount of the new Emu Rock wheat variety to see how it fares.

"We are feeling very positive and upbeat given such a good start to the season," he said.

John, who is semi-retired but still involved in the operation, said it was not just the amount of rain, but also its consistency, along with mild temperatures that were boosting the family's confidence.

He said the current overcast skies and lack of wind meant the soil moisture was more likely to be maintained.

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