Wheatbelt farmers keep the faith

Jo Fulwood and Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Farmers remain enthusiastic about the season ahead, despite a dry week and relatively warm April temperatures.

According to CBH general manager of operations Dave Capper, recent hot weather was understandably making many farmers nervous.

"We've seen very warm weather over the weekend, and predictions are for temperatures in the 30s this week in Geraldton, but there is plenty of moisture in these areas and there's some crop going in and some crop already coming up," he said.

Mr Capper said it had been a pleasing start to the season for much of the Geraldton zone, and parts of the Kwinana zone.

"There are a few areas to the western end of Geraldton zone and through the central part in Kwinana zone that have only received average or below average rainfall, but other than that, generally it has been a very pleasing start," he said.

He said some farmers were beginning their seeding programs in the Albany zone, but most were waiting for more rain or to hit the right seeding window. Mr Capper said CBH's site-by-site planning would commence in late June.

"We've got good moisture through the north of the agriculture areas, which we haven't had for a couple of years, and some good moisture through the east of the Kwinana zone, so we are doing some planning to ensure we can provide a service in those areas where we've been quite light on for the last few years."

Anthony Hollins of Walkaway started his seeding program this week, several days earlier than normal.

Although Mr Hollins, who farms with wife Tracey and parents Ian and Jan, traditionally starts seeding the day after Anzac Day, this year he is comfortable starting early given opening rains had already arrived.

Mr Hollins said he had received 75mm at Walkaway and had started seeding his 300ha of Sturt and GT4 canola.

He said the warm weather meant the arrival of further rain was needed sooner rather than later at Walkaway.

Once complete he would move on to a 1200ha wheat program, the main varieties being Calingiri, Mace, and 600ha of lupins, predominantly Barlock and Mandelup.

Mr Hollins said once the crop was in the ground at Walkaway he would then plant his crop at a separate property in Tenindewa, near Mullewa. That property had enjoyed 185mm since the start of March so he was particularly optimistic about this area.

He said for the first time this year he had deep-ripped the ground at Tenindewa in a bid to make the most of the moisture and help control weeds.

Meanwhile, Mr Capper predicted increases in coarse grain and canola plantings across the State.

"Where we have a wet start it tends to mean a slight elevation of canola and course grains at the expense of wheat," he said.

The Grain Industry Association's latest crop report predicted areas sown to wheat in 2015 may decline by about 2 to 3 per cent, with Mace continuing to be the dominant variety of wheat sown.

"This is due to a range of factors, including the relative profitability of lupins and oats and the early sowing opportunity provided by the recent rainfall in April and late March in the northern and eastern regions," the report stated.

But the report also predicted a decline in canola plantings.

"This decline can be seen as a 'correction' to a more sustainable area after the rapid rise in planted area over the last six years," the report stated.

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