Waterlogging in southern parts of WA’s grain belt hasn’t dampened projections of a record crop this season, with ideal growing conditions in the northern and central Wheatbelt set to make up any losses.
- Total grain production in WA is projected to reach a record 20 million tonnes
- Frost and heat stress pose the greatest risk to achieving the record harvest
- Good growing conditions in eastern areas of the grain belt are expected to offset waterlogging
In its latest season snapshot, the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) estimates close to 20 million tonnes of grain will be harvested across the state, up from 16.6 million tonnes last year.
GIWA crop report author Michael Lamond said extreme waterlogging in southern and eastern parts would likely be offset by bumper conditions across the remainder of the state.
“The area [impacted by waterlogging] is in the hundreds of thousands of hectares, out of nine million, so it’s a lot but it’s not huge compared to the total area,” he said.
“It’s certainly going to take the top of the Albany Port Zone and the West Kwinana but the good areas are just so good it will easily balance that out.”
Marginal areas tipped to shine
Mr Lamond said the eastern and northern areas of the Wheatbelt could emerge as the hero of the 2021 season.
“Right from Geraldton, all the way down to the east, north eastern and far east is sensational,” he said.
“Those low rainfall areas will have a big impact on total tonnage because they’re huge areas, and at this stage they’re all looking above average and some well above average.”
Solid rainfall ‘comforting’
Curtis Liebeck farms at Muntadgin, about 290 kilometres east of Perth in WA’s eastern Wheatbelt.
He said it was “comforting” to have rainfall totals either double or triple long term monthly averages, but was cautiously optimistic given the risk of frost damage and heat stress in coming weeks.
“We’ve had a few lean seasons out here with rainfall in terms of starting in June and sometimes ending in August, so it’s comforting to have rainfall for the entirety of the growing season,” he said.
“There’s pretty good potential out here, but we need that nice gentle rain and no frost which is very common in the eastern Wheatbelt in late August and September.
“If we can avoid that frost and get it to the bin, then it’s exciting … but its not in the bin yet so we’ll just keep our heads down and hope for a soft finish.”
All hands on deck
WA’s main grain handler CBH is scrambling to cater for the projected massive crop.
While the cooperative says it has built 2.5 million tonnes of permanent storage over the past five years, it has identified the need for additional emergency temporary storage.
“There’s a lot of work to getting the planning approvals through with local government and getting hold of contractors.”
CBH is in the process of trying to recruit about 2,000 casual workers to receive and handle the 2021 harvest.
Mr Dawe said the cooperative had expanded its recruitment efforts to try and attract enough workers.
“It’s definitely been one of our major considerations in how to manage this year’s crop and that’s why this year we’ve cast the net wider to try get labour we haven’t normally, including the metro area,” he said.
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