Three times the charm

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
Email Jenne Brammer

Seeding is well under way for Boyup Brook farmers Paul and Jacquie Broockmann, after their third consecutive early and strong opening.

Mr Broockmann said he started seeding on May 7, after 36mm of rain in mid-March, 115mm in early to mid-April and 15mm in early May. A further 10-15mm is forecast for this weekend.

"We've had a very good run of starts here in the south west and this year is no exception," he said.

"Last year was almost too wet - we were getting bogged. It's not that wet this year, but we do have very good sub-soil moisture."

The Broockmanns' cropping program will this year include 250ha of Bass barley, 400ha of canola (mostly Stingray with some hybrid TT and Clearfield), and 60ha of oats, which will be half Williams (for seed bulking) and half Mitika.

Mr Broockmann said he had finished planting oats and started canola last Sunday.

He will soon start planting barley and hopes to finish next week.

A new development this year is trying out some different hybrid varieties of canola, but he said results would have to be exceptional to beat past performance of Stingray.

"The Stingray we have been growing in recent years has been miles ahead of anything else, even though it's a short season Wheatbelt variety," he said.

"Last year the yields were 500-700kg/ha above other canola varieties we tried."

The Broockmann family run a sheep operation alongside their cropping program, currently mating 4500 ewes each year: 2500 to Merino rams and 2000 to White Suffolks.

Provided meat prices remain high, Mr Broockmann expects to increase his breeding flock to 5500.

"Gross margins for livestock now equal that of cropping," he said.

"We can scale back our cropping program if need be. It will depend ultimately on the commodity prices."

Mr Broockmann said he rotates paddocks between cropping and livestock, generally with two to three years of pasture, followed by canola, then barley and then oats.

Although the Broockmanns have grazed sheep on crops in the past, this will not be done this year because of the abundance of green feed.

Elsewhere across the State, particularly north of Perth, growers are starting to get nervous as the dry spell continues.

According to the Grains Industry Association of WA May crop report, the current weather pattern of dry conditions with warm maximum temperatures is reducing the production potential of the 2015 season as each day passes without significant rainfall.

In its report, GIWA advised caution in regard to early optimism for 2015 grain production, which followed the extensive rainfall events in late March and early April through the Geraldton and Kwinana east zones.

Forecasts of rainfall in coming months differ. The Bureau of Meteorology summary for May to July is optimistic for wetter than average rainfall.

However, forecasts from Department of Agriculture and Food WA and the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre are less optimistic.

GIWA said the 2015 season would see a much greater change in the mix of crops grown in WA than in recent seasons.

Oat, barley and lupin plantings are forecast to increase this year, while plantings of canola are expected to fall.

Canola plantings are expected to decline by 7.9 per cent to 1.149m ha, due to lower prices affecting profit potential.

"Additionally, the rapid rise in the area of canola sown in recent years has caused some agronomic issues, principally root lesion nematodes and sclerotinia," the report said.

The area planted to lupins is expected to rise by 6.1 per cent to 297,000ha because of competitive profits from canola and, in some cases, wheat.

Oat plantings are expected to increase by 31.1 per cent to 236,000ha due to strong export demand and the improved yield performance of new varieties Boddington and Williams.

Wheat is expected to increase by 2.3 per cent to 4.595m ha.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails