Rain, hail halt harvest

Jo Fulwood and Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Heavy rainfall of up to 125mm across the northern and central Wheatbelt on Friday night and Saturday morning saw much of the State's harvest come to a halt.

Although many farmers in the Kwinana and Geraldton port zones had resumed their harvest programs by yesterday, farmers were still assessing whether there was any serious damage as a result of heavy downpour.

The Bureau of Meteorology recorded falls of up to 39mm at Wialki, 40mm at Goomalling, 65mm at Konnongorring, 37mm at Quairading and 32mm at Northampton.

Social media reports, meanwhile, showed falls of 80mm at north Kellerberrin, 54mm at Westonia, 60mm at South Wyalkatchem, 50mm at South Cunderdin, 37.5mm at Bonnie Rock, 56mm at Muntadgin and 42mm east of Merredin, while others reported more than 100mm at Tammin.

CBH Group Kwinana zone manager Gavin Bignell said most areas north of the standard-gauge line received between 30mm and 100mm of rain over Friday evening and Saturday morning, while south of the line had far less, between 1mm and 15mm.

Mr Bignell said it was too early to tell what impact the rain has had on grain quality and there would be a big focus this week on understanding whether there was any sprouting as a result.

Meanwhile, the Rowe family of Wongoondy, in the Mullewa Shire, had falls measuring between 3mm and 30mm throughout the weekend, forcing them to take a long weekend break from harvest.

Steve Rowe, who farms with wife Janelle and Steve's parents John and Val , was expecting to be able to resume his harvest program on Wednesday.

He was also hopeful that quality would not be further compromised by the moisture at this time of year.

The family had already finished harvesting their canola and barley crops, and had started harvesting wheat and lupins before the rain arrived.

Mr Rowe said it had been quite a dry season otherwise.

They had received 275mm before the weekend's rain, of which only 175mm was received during the growing season, which ended with a very dry finish and frosts for the first time that Mr Rowe can remember.

"The yields are good for the type of season we have had," Mr Rowe said.

"However, quality is disappointing due to the lower rainfall and some frosting in areas of the farms."

Further south at Wandering, Dean Warburton managed to escape a downpour despite dark clouds looming last Friday afternoon.

Mr Warburton, who farms with wife Diane, said although he was anticipating rain, he was fortunate enough to have the storm clouds pass him by.

He had started harvesting canola earlier that week, but at an average of 1.2 tonnes per hectare, yields had been disappointing.

The Warburtons' total rainfall for the growing season was 290mm, about 100mm less than average.

Mr Warburton said although the season had started well, a dry September and October had caused yields to suffer.

Mr Bignell said overall there had been very minimal damage to grain already delivered to CBH as it was covered and in sealed storage.

Meanwhile, Corrigin farmers might not have experienced the deluge of rain received in other parts of the Wheatbelt, but hail wiped out hundreds of hectares of crops across the region.

Ken Grylls, who farms 30km west of Corrigin, is still assessing the damage of the hailstorm that crushed lupins, canola and some wheat crops.

Mr Grylls estimated at least 80ha of lupins and 80ha of canola had been 100 per cent wiped out by the storm, despite receiving only 8mm of rain.

He said another 150ha of wheat had about 50 per cent damage.

"This rain would have been fantastic if we had received it two months ago, but at least we are back harvesting already, that's one blessing I suppose," he said.

Like many farmers in the central and western parts of the Wheatbelt, the unseasonal harvest rain was a frustrating reminder of the dry spring finish.

Mr Grylls said he estimated the dry spring could have taken up to a tonne a hectare from his total yields.

Crops on neighbour Wes Baker's property also suffered hail damage.

Mr Baker estimated at least 900ha, or 40 per cent of his total program, had been affected by the storm.

"We only received 12mm, but we have seen there is a 100 per cent loss on at least 200ha, and then varying loss over the rest, on lupins, canola and barley," he said.

"It looks like the lupins sustained the worst damage."

CBH general manager of operations David Capper said the State was 15 per cent through the 2015 harvest, with mixed quality apparent across the zones and commodities.

He said although canola quality had so far been outstanding across most zones, there had been some issues with screenings and protein with wheat, barley and oats.

"It has been a frustrating start in most parts of the Wheatbelt because of the varied weather," Mr Capper said.

"Our focus is on communication with growers to ensure we are supporting them as best we can.

"We are working with growers across all zones to make sure the right segregations are in place to manage the large variety in quality that we are seeing."

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