Rollercoaster ride

Jo Fulwood, Jenne Brammer and Trin SucklingThe West Australian

Fickle September weather continued to confuse growers with some parts of the agricultural belt facing temperatures of up to 34 degrees on Saturday followed by a widespread winter-like cold front on Sunday.

Falls of up to 50mm were received and while the rain has come too late for many in the north, growers in the central Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Esperance zones were rejoicing at the finishing rains.

Corrigin experienced a fall of 24mm, 20mm fell at Esperance airport, 17mm at Quairading, 7mm at Merredin and 27mm at Dandaragan West.

Record September daily maximum temperatures were recorded at Goomalling, Esperance and Gingin, coupled with strong and damaging winds right across the Wheatbelt.

Southern Cross farmer Clint Della Bosca said his crops had sustained damage after excessive wind speeds of 93 km/h combined with the 34 degree day last Saturday.

He said the winds had tipped over mature crop heads, which would impact on grain filling.

But he said the 13.5mm of rain received on his home farm on Sunday could still be of benefit to this year's crop.

"I am hoping there is still enough green in the leaf to give us extra grain size," he said.

"It just depends on how many grains we've lost with the heat stress."

Mr Della Bosca said this season had been a mixed bag for the Yilgarn region.

"We've had above-average rainfall months, record rainfall lows, record high temperatures, frost, heat stress - I've never seen anything like it," he said.

Planfarm consultant Glen Brayshaw said generally there were mixed benefits across the Wheatbelt.

"In the eastern Wheatbelt areas - such as Narembeen (11mm) - there are many crops hanging on quite nicely and the rain would have been beneficial in terms of grain fill," he said.

"In the higher rainfall areas, such as Bindoon, the crops look great. The crops are still flowering and the rain would have been very beneficial."

Mr Brayshaw said crops on medium to lighter soils would be best placed to take advantage of the rain.

"But for some of the crops on heavier soils, this rain has arrived too late," he said. "There are some barley crops they have probably done their dash at this point of time."

He said the rain would not have caused damage to advanced crops.

However for hay that's on the ground, this rain would have been counterproductive.

For Quairading farmers Wayne and Carolyn Davies, and son Mitchell, who farm with brother Roger, 24mm of rain that arrived on their Spring Hills farm delivered an important boost to an already strong season.

"We consider any rain that arrives after the Dowerin Field Days a bonus, and 24mm at the weekend was very welcome," he said.

Mr Davies said their property had received 286mm this year since seeding started in late April.

Although tracking average overall, aside from a dry June, the rainfall had been optimally timed.

"Although it's not looking as good as last year, we are still expecting one of our best years," Mr Davies said.

"The biggest risk from now until the end of September is frosts.

"If we manage to avoid these, then I would say we are on track for 2.8-3t per hectare for wheat and about 1-1.2t/ha for canola."

Spring Hills runs a cropping program, which this year consists of 2320ha wheat, 560ha canola, 540ha barley and 100ha of lupins. They also run 1500 breeding ewes.

In the northern agricultural region, 50mm fell in Dongara, 33mm in Eneabba and 27mm in Dandaragan West.

Drier areas such as Three Springs received 25mm and Mullewa 26mm, while 53mm fell in Northampton and 27mm in Yuna, where harvest, already underway, had to be interrupted.

Many growers received more in the 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday than was recorded throughout the entire month of April.

East Ogilvie farmer Brad Cripps received 28mm on his Barellan property and high winds postponed the swathing of his canola.

"We've missed the window for swathing now and will desiccate it later on in the week and next, then direct head it another six days after that," he said.

"The rain has put a dampener on things, hopefully it hasn't done any damage - we have wheat ripe and ready to go, but I think it is still soft enough for this rain not to have harmed it too much.

"We wouldn't want too many more of these events before it does become more of a problem."

Mr Cripps believes perspective is easily found when looking at the disappointing end to what was a brilliant start to the season.

"I always relate back to 06 and 07 when we didn't get much at all; every time we aren't going too well, I just remind myself of those years," he said.

"Two years in a row we have started off brilliantly and then been let down halfway or at the end of the season - the northerners must be due a bit of luck soon".

About 50km down the track, Walkindyer stud breeder Nathan Teakle received between 50mm and 60mm in Isseka, south of Northampton.

Recording a total of 380mm for the year, just below the property's usual average, Mr Teakle said the dry August had impacted his property and the weekend showers would have little positive effect on his crops.

"I don't think it will be of a huge benefit - a few of the pastures will hang on a little bit longer, white lupins will stay greener for a little bit longer," he said.

"Luckily we got our hay baled and small squares carted on Saturday.

"All our round bales were left in the paddock so there might be a small amount of weather damage there but it won't be as bad if it was left on the ground.

"I have noticed a few dead lambs, they were in a pretty sheltered paddock but it was pretty windy and wet, enough to lose a few lambs.

"Wheat is pretty much ripened, there are the odd little green patches in the paddock.

"I am hoping it hasn't ripened off that much that it will cause any falling number issues, you would think that would only happen if you got rain in November."

Mr Teakle said feed barley ready to harvest would have to wait until the weekend's rain forecast but hopes to start taking crops off in early October.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA northern agricultural region development officer Rob Grima said the rain would be beneficial for those on the western fringe but mostly too late in the north-eastern areas where crops were at an advanced stage.

"Fortunately the rain was unlikely to have caused damage in these crops," he said.

"And in these areas there could be some pulse crops, and possibly the odd late-sown cereal crop that could take some advantage, but I would think the vast majority in those locations would not make any value out of the weekend rain."

Mr Grima said rain that fell in the drier eastern areas about two weeks ago arrived just in the nick of time and provided an important quality and yield boost for many crops, putting them back on track for their five year average.

For the western areas, he said there was still enough green in the cereals for rains over the past weekend to be beneficial and valuable to farmers.

He said despite strong winds across the region, he doubts these caused crop or erosion damage.

At Esperance, the 35C temperatures and windy conditions counteracted the benefits from rain.

Farm & General agronomist Monica Field said particularly thirsty areas around Grass Patch and Cascades would have benefited, along with coastal areas.

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