Wards wading through big cropping program

Kate PollardCountryman

Wagin farmers the Wards are half-way through harvesting their biggest cropping program to date.

Paul Ward, his father, Howard, and two workmen started harvest in the last week of October.

Mr Ward said it had been a relatively good run, despite 14mm of rain in early November holding up harvesting efforts for a week.

The export hay has been baled, the canola, oats and lupins have been harvested and the focus is now on barley before moving to wheat.

It is a turnaround from last year, when the Wards harvested well into the middle of January because of rain.

This year, the family's canola averaged 860kg/ha, down from a much hoped 1t/ha.

"On the heavier country we ran out of moisture in July but the gravel and loam soils have held on," Mr Ward said.

Lupins have averaged 1.3t/ha. "I think the wheat will yield average or just below average," Mr Ward said.

Earlier in the year, the Wards pre-sold two wheat parcels for $280/t and $350/t, but Mr Ward said they would now hold off to confirm quality, with the aim to sell it all by February.

They also pre-sold 300t of canola for $600/t and are aiming to sell the rest for $590/t.

This growing season, they recorded 204mm of rain and have recorded 281mm for the year, which is significantly down on the average of 350mm.

For the past five years, the Wards have focused their farming enterprise on total cropping.

Rotations depend on soil types, but generally are one or two cereals followed by a break crop such as lupins.

"In 2009 we reduced our canola and lupin proportion of our rotation to include more cereals but it's taken us a couple of years to get the weed control back so now we stick to a fairly strict rotation," Mr Ward said.

Forty per cent of the cropping rotation goes to break crops.

The weed burden is managed by rotating chemical groups and by growing export hay.

They family also used Roundup Ready canola (RR) the first year it was available, but Mr Ward said they would wait for yield advantages before using it again.

"We use triazine tolerant (TT) and imidazolinone tolerant (IT) canola at the moment, and having three different types of canola to spray becomes a management issue so we have decided just to use two," he said.

Next year they may look at replacing the IT for RR canola.

Mr Ward said they should be finished harvest by December 20.

Fast facts *

_WHO: _ Paul and Nicole Ward and parents Howard and Margie Ward

_WHERE: _Harwood, Wagin

_WHAT: _100 per cent crop

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