Wheatbelt farmers celebrated generous drenching to start the grain-growing season

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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VideoThe recent large rainfalls are a sigh of relief for many farmers across the Wheatbelt

Farmers across most of the Wheatbelt are celebrating recent generous rains, which have ended a big dry spell and helped the 2018 grain-growing season get off to a strong start.

Grain Industry Association of WA spokesman Michael Lamond said good rains of up to 70mm, which started in late May, had put more than half of the Wheatbelt on track for an above-average season.

He said it was heartening that the downpour had reached farmers in the northern Wheatbelt, around Mullewa, and eastern parts including Beacon, Wialki and Bonnie Rock, who missed out on early rain last year. Crops in those areas were in sound shape, Mr Lamond said.

“Meanwhile, north of Geraldton down to Perth and over to Moora, farmers are celebrating one of the best starts to the season they’ve had in many years,” he said.

At Meckering, in the central Wheatbelt, Russell and Rebekah Burges said a particularly hot and dry April and May, coupled with a lack of summer rains to build up sub-soil moisture, originally had them feeling nervous.

But since it started raining at their property on May 27, 60mm has soaked paddocks across their 2100ha cropping program, and they could not be happier.

“It’s been a great start, and it looks like there’s more rain coming on Sunday, with a further 10mm forecast,” Mrs Burges said.

“We had about 80 per cent of our crop sown into dry soil before this rain arrived — crops have since germinated and are out of the ground.”

The rain means the Burges will also be able to move their 1700 breeding ewes and lambs to newly established pastures within the next fortnight, ending the need for expensive hand feeding.

Not all farmers across the 8.2 million hectare cropping region are so lucky. Mr Lamond said there were areas, particularly around Newdegate, Lake Grace and Kulin, which had received less than 12mm all autumn and into the start of winter.

Further south, in a strip from Mt Barker along the coast towards Esperance, farmers have had virtually no rain. These farmers have also encountered multiple severe wind storms in recent weeks. “This has done huge damage, removing up to 20cm of top soil in some cases,” Mr Lamond said. “It’s absolutely devastating for these farmers — the damage to soil will last well beyond this season.”

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