As WA anticipates a record grain harvest, farmers on the south coast are watching their crops drown in flooded soils.
- Farmers may expect to harvest a record 20 million tonnes of grain in Western Australia
- Excessive rain drowned some crops in the Great Southern and south coast regions
- Some south coast WA farms are too waterlogged to sow or spray
Abundant, consistent rains across WA’s grain-growing region have raised hopes for a record statewide yield in 2021.
In its latest crop report, published June 11, the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) described a “near-perfect start” to 2021 with “the potential to push total grain production past 20 million tonnes” across the state, well ahead of 2016’s record haul of just over 18 million tonnes.
But while the rain has been appreciated by most growers, those on the south coast have a different story to tell.
Flooded fields, bogged machines, dying crops
Jeremy Walker farms in Green Range, 70 kilometres northeast of Albany.
He expected to lose three-quarters of his canola crop after a storm flooded his farm in June.
By the end of June, his farm had received 70 millimetres more rain than the same period in 2016, the previous record year.
Even before the flood, his soils were too waterlogged to take any machinery onto the fields.
“We can’t fertilise, can’t spray … it’s been about five weeks since our sprayer has come out the shed and done anything.”
“There’s been a lot of bogged machines around this year,” aerial sprayer Andrew Twyne said.
He has seen the flooding far better than most while flying over farms in the Great Southern and south coast.
“The closer you get to the coast the wetter it gets,” he said.
“At this time of year I’d usually expect one or two calls [to fertilise crops],” he said, “but I’m 27 jobs ahead at this point.”
WA still on record pace
Michael Lamond wrote the GIWA’s monthly state crop report.
He believed that, as of the end of June, WA was still on pace for a record 2021 harvest despite damage in the south.
“The flooding on the south coast is to a large extent going to be offset by the excellent growing conditions in the Mid West and the Wheatbelt,” he said.
“Since our last estimates, the rest of the state has just got better.
He estimated about 400,000 hectares of south coast farmland are water-damaged, of around 8.5 million hectares sown statewide.
Little consolation for those with farms underwater, whose yield Mr Lamond expects “could be down fifty per cent”.